Considering Personal Work In My Life– by Matt Miller

Considering Personal Work In My Life– by Matt Miller

When we consider the early church found described in the book of Acts, we quickly observe people who were just like you and I.  They had obeyed the gospel, they were trying to learn and grow in their spiritual lives, and wherever they went, we see them spreading the gospel.  Spreading the gospel of course, is the instruction that Jesus is recorded by the gospel writers just before Jesus ascended on high.

[Mat 28:19-20 NKJV] 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.” Amen.

How do we go about fulfilling our portion of this instruction today?

As we consider the New Testament, we find Paul traveling about and meeting with the Jews in the synagogues, stopping on the riverbank where others were meeting and praying or speaking at the public square.  Of course we also find the sending of letters from the inspired Apostles with instructions to share and read these among the churches.  From this we get an idea of a group of vibrant men and women who took the gospel to every corner of the world, wherever they went and under whatever circumstance they found themselves.  Some were traveling because of persecutions, others were maybe journeying for trade or work, and still others finding themselves under the custody of the government took the gospel into the courts and to the households of those government officials before whom they appeared (these are facts as represented throughout Acts and gathered from language that Paul used in his prison epistles). In our present age, I think that there are a number of ways that communications, travel, and the world generally looks different from the world in which we find men like Philip traveling and preaching in cities that he wasn’t from.

While things may have changed over the centuries, we each one still have a responsibility to talk to those whom we have opportunity to discuss with and to spread the gospel.  In order to do that, we must be diligent in our studies.  We each cannot shirk our individual responsibilities before the Lord lest we are the embodiment of the lazy servant  [Matt 25:26a-27 NKJV] ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 ‘So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.

So what does that look like and how do we each do our part in this?

Start with your own spiritual housekeeping.  Am I being the greatest, the best, the fullest in Christ that I can be?  Am I praying as a habit and custom?  Not just blessing my food at meals, but really spending time laying my cares and needs before the Lord.  This should be the practice where burdens that come to mind when I rise are taken to the Lord.  Cares that come up and disquiet me throughout the day, I take them to God.  Before I lay my head down and seek quiet in my mind (if you know me, you know this is a genetic struggle for me sometimes as my brain won’t quiet), am I taking those unresolved cares before the Lord?

If my prayer life is good, is my reading and meditation good?  Do I spend time everyday with the Lord’s word?  It is His word which will judge us. That is, it is His word by which we will be measured and weighed, so we must know and understand it, applying it in our lives so that we might not be found to be lacking on the day of judgement (John 12:48).  The Bereans were commended for their diligence in study and considering what they heard compared to scripture (Acts 17:10-12). It is by devoting time to study and meditation that we can be fully equipped.  Paul wrote to the younger preacher Timothy and instructed him, “[2Ti 2:2 NKJV] 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Further he tells Timothy that “[2Ti 3:16-17 NKJV] 16 All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So if we want to use the tools at our disposal, we must be well versed in scripture and in the teaching of the Apostles. 

Finally, we must live lives which speak to others. Paul wrote to the Romans, “[Rom 12:2-3 NKJV] 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

As we consider these things then, our life being one which reflects Christ is the first step in contributing to the cause of Christ.  This comes over time, and through growth as supplied by God.  As we do this though, we should consistently be on the lookout to spread the message of His Kingdom.  We are citizens of that kingdom and as we journey here we must be good representatives of that land to which we are going. 

The media that we have access to is different than the public square that Paul and I’m sure others preached in during the 1st Century.  We have access to social media, we can create stunning visual aids, charts, pictures and there is certainly no shortage of helps in the written form.  We live in a day and age when we are blessed with the greatest access to God’s word and the best translations thereof into our own language, that maybe has ever been.  Let us then use these things to spread the gospel message.  It really is simpler than we make it out to be.

The world is dead because of sin, but God sent His Son, Jesus the Christ (Eph 2:1-3) who saves men from their sins and reconciles the same unto God.  Let us bear this message far and wide.

Remembering Those Who Have Tread Before Us – Matt Miller

It is Memorial Day weekend in this country. Often, there is confusion among our youth surrounding this day, as it seems to have taken on different meanings and the reasons for its observance have been diminished over the years. The observance of this weekend was originally called Decoration Day and was established following the American Civil War, as a day when veterans would decorate the graves of their deceased comrades. This great conflict in our country had members of families even divided and fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield. Many pioneer Christian preachers took the stand that Christians should avoid serving in the militaries at the time of the Civil War.

While Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our nation’s freedom, it also provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the spiritual legacy of those who have gone before us in faith. The Bible speaks of a “cloud of witnesses”(Heb 12:1)—those faithful individuals who have run the race before us and whose lives testify to the enduring power of faith. Among the Christians here at Elm Street, there have been a number of individuals who were responsible for starting the work in the Lord here.  Men and women who taught their children and younger Christians those values and traditions which we labor to apply and practice in our lives, and in our worship. People who instilled within us the need to look to God’s Word and follow only it.  People who taught that God’s Word and truth are always superior to traditions of men.  People who lived in a time when not only they, but the world around them conducted itself where a man’s word was his bond. I suppose that we could very easily romanticize a time gone by as we remember the legacy of our forebears.  We often times do that to the 1st Century church don’t we? 

The world around us certainly does.  If you visit with others about the church and what it should be and how people should conduct themselves in their Christian relationships within the church, very quickly, those people around us will be quick to point out any hypocrisy.  They will be quick to express a desire for a romanticized church, one that people could not be involved in because they have heard just enough to know what the church is supposed to be, while they ignore that for all the things written in the “letters” of the Apostles, most of it was to correct problems that existed across the various local works of Christ. 

Certainly, we are not perfect, and although we strive to follow everything by command, example or necessary inference as it is laid out in the New Testament, there is always room for improvement and growth for each member of this local body of Christ.

The beautiful thing about the Bible is that while it was written to a different age of men, it still applies and guides and provides all that men need even in this present age. The words of the Hebrew writer still rings true for us today.  [Heb 4:12 NKJV] 12 For the word of God [is] living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. On this Memorial Day weekend, remember the loved one’s of our faith who are asleep in Jesus.  Look forward to the day of rejoining them, and more importantly joining the Lord at His return for that eternal day. Stand fast in your faith, and be encouraged by Paul’s words of truth in the first letter to the Thessalonians: [1Th 4:13-18 NKJV] 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [and] remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

These words do not always comfort, because we know those who have passed from this life had no regard for their Creator. Some become forlorn at the thought, but we would do well to remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).  Those in the suffering of the Hadean realm clearly would want you to know that the only thing that matters in this life is to serve God and keep His commandments (Eccl 12:13).  No doubt, they would conclude that they would want you to know Jesus Christ and to be saved by Him. Just as Peter declared in [Act 4:12 NKJV] 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The facts are that we must prioritize serving God in this life.  We must make Him more important than every relationship that we might have.  Certainly, as life progresses, the older that we get, the more real the certainty of life’s end becomes.  We observe others who pass on from here and we grieve and mourn for our losses.  Let us put those griefs in their proper place with the contrasts found in the story of Lazarus.  As we remember those who have given their lives for our nation’s freedom, let us also be inspired by the “cloud of witnesses” who have faithfully run their race. Their legacy encourages us to persevere in our faith, laying aside every weight and sin, and looking unto Jesus, the ultimate example of sacrifice and endurance. This Memorial Day, let us honor both our national heroes and our spiritual forebears, recognizing the profound legacy of faith and freedom that we have inherited.  Let us search the scriptures and live our lives in the way that God would have, for anyone who has passed from this life and was not right with God, whatever their relationship with you, would desire that you know the truth and come to obey Jesus, the King.

Running Our Race Acceptably– By Matt Miller

This has been a full week for many of you.  We are in a season when many are experiencing dramatic shifts in life, with big decisions on your horizons and new experiences before you.  Such is often the case in the season of Spring with the end of the school year and the shifting of weather.  Our daily routines get changed a bit, the things that we need to do around our homes changes.  The clocks have moved, and the sun comes up a lot earlier than it had been only a few weeks ago.

As we contemplate all the changes, and the decisions that are set before us, let us reflect on some scriptures to maybe help us be grounded in this season and hopefully a few words that will help us along the way.

The Hebrew writer gives us the accounting of those faithful men and women of ancient days even as he wrote the words in chapter 11.  He testifies of the fact that those who we think of as giants of faith, were not made perfect apart from us, but we all look forward to the same hope and perfection that is only available in Jesus Christ. (Heb 11:39-40).  This thought is the launchpad then for what he writes next.

[Heb 12:1-3 NKJV] 1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares [us], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

We often strive through the changes in our seasons of life through pain, tears, and strife.  The changes to our routines hurt, even the smallest ones – have you ever suffered from jetlag?  Maybe that’s why he cautioned us to put aside the things that are dragging us down.  Put aside your affection for how yesterday made you feel comfortable.  Embrace today for it is the only day before you (Jas 4:14).  Work through today and the challenges that it places.  Plan for tomorrow, but don’t be disappointed if it comes in a form and with challenges that you hadn’t planned to encounter.

In the Lord, we have a perfect example of running the race to completion as He is the first to have completed the race and has been exalted because of that perfection and place of honor which is rightly His. His blood atoning for us and His enduring all the worst of humanity, He has purchased you, and He has purchased me so He has earned (even by our own reasoning) the exalted place on which He stands. We then should look to that example and emulate Him in this life with an eye on that prize – His glory, His presence.

With  this in mind, let us not become weary, discouraged, or give up on our race.  Wherever you find yourself along the way, don’t stop putting one foot before the other.  Don’t give up on what you have set out to accomplish – eternal life in His presence. Notice that as we progress down the page in Hebrews 12, the writer tells us we aren’t done yet:

[Heb 12:4-8 NKJV] 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

When we encounter struggles in this life, there are a few perspectives on them that can help us in dealing with them.  Remember that the greatest hardships are in our lives because of sin. 

Because of the sin of others, the evil that sin is, our own sins.  Sin brought the curse upon creation.  That is maybe the loudest declaration that sin in all its forms has huge consequences.  These things serve as a reminder in a temporal kind of way. Toils, Pain, Sickness, and Death – all are a result of sin. All these remind us that God has judged against us because of Sin.  They also should remind those who are in Christ Jesus, that we are not bound to these things.  He has freed us of the bondage of such and we know that this is true, because of an empty grave.

That empty grave represents the accomplishment in Him that we look forward to.  That eternal existence in His Glory and in His presence where tears and pain and suffering will be no more.  The Hebrew writer compares the two mountains – Mt. Zion to where we go with Mt. Saini where the law was given and where Israel shuddered in fear at the sight and the terror of the Almighty.

We are going to the mountain on which God’s mercy and deliverance rests, but let us not lose hope, grow weary, or give up.  Let us run patiently with endurance and let us help one another along the way.

Lift the fainting and stir one another as we seek to honor Him whom we serve.  Let us remember that He is worthy and accept His correction because we are made sons and heirs through Jesus.

[Heb 12:28-29 NKJV] 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God [is] a consuming fire.

We shall not be moved not by the fearful things of this world, nor by difficulty.  We have hope, and not despair, and so we press on along the way.  In prayer, in diligence, in faith.

The Creation’s Witness – By Matt Miller

The heaven’s have certainly been busy this year by way of uncommon celestial events speaking to men. In our area, we have had a very near total solar eclipse last month, and now we have had a geomagnetic storm resulting in northern lights so far south that many of our friends and neighbors were able to walk outside and capture photos and witness these things Friday night. While we understand what occurs in events such as this, providing a scientific reason and analysis of how these sights come into view, we are left awestruck when we witness such events. These events are things that do not just occur everyday, and they are reminders of the greatness of the Creator of all that exists. Truly, God’s creative power is without compare, His creation reminds us of its designer and maker and when we see such things, we should rightly be left with a feeling of awe, wonder, and amazement.

As we witness such events, it reminds me of the contemplations of David as he expressed it in Psalm 19. In this light, I would like to consider this psalm for a moment. These events serve to captivate man’s mind, our awe, and give rise to wonder in the hearts and minds of children. We have witnessed what is a natural occurrence, and yet it has occurred at a magnitude at which only ever so rarely we will be allowed to observe. I think that it serves as a reminder to men that we were not there when God formed the universe, and should help to put us back in our place lest we forget and become arrogant in our learning and in our understanding.

In the first part of the Psalm, the David speaks to the declaration of the Maker in the glory of the heavens and celestial bodies. [Psa 19:1-6 NKJV] 1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 [There is] no speech nor language [Where] their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which [is] like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, [And] rejoices like a strong man to run its race. 6 Its rising [is] from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Events such as this, without a sound give us profound sense of wonder at the order of the heavenly bodies and how all of these things work to provide us with such sights. Majestic views and wonderful hues which were ours to behold. Yet for the rarity of these events, David tells us that everyday is a wonder. The rising of the sun and the placement of the moon should bring us to wonder and amazement when we consider that God has placed it all, put it in its courses and designed it in such a way that it all works perfectly and orderly. That the creation has revealed to men its order and design, so that we may forecast and predict celestial events. We often decry how man has set God far from his mind, and yet in our age of convenient communications, we are allowed for the broadest possible audience to witness the wonders of creation. Let us remind our friends and neighbors as we talk about these events that these sights remind us of the sovereignty of God over His creation.

Having contemplated the creation and the order with which God has set everything in, David then turns his contemplation to the rule of God’s sovereignty over His creation. God’s judgements, God’s laws, God’s will. All of this comes together powerfully to give us what we should recognize and desire at our very core. Notice David’s words – [Psa 19:7-11 NKJV] 7 The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, [And] in keeping them [there is] great reward.

As we recognize with awe the creator and the order of the heavens which He created, we should also be reminded by these events that God has ordered our days and the ways of man. If we would obey His commandments and do His will, we would be blessed in spite of the curses in this life. He has given to us a way to fullness, and joy by way of the wisdom of His word. Contemplate in this context the words of Jesus to His disciples as He revealed the Father and the wonderful relationship that is offered through the Son (Jhn 15:11-13; Jhn 16:20-24). By our relationship in the Son, and because He has promised to those who are in Him eternal life in the glory of God, we can be reminded that abiding in His commands is the only place for us. So we trust, so we wait, so we endure and are comforted by the witness of creation to the soundness of our faith.

Finally, David turns the lens of reflection upon himself, as should each one of us – [Psa 19:12-14 NKJV] 12 Who can understand [his] errors? Cleanse me from secret [faults]. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous [sins]; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Jesus is the only answer for the ugliness of our sin and the curse that sins bring upon our relationships and play out in our lives. Let us then constantly seek to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins and let us meditate upon His words so that our lives and our hearts might align with His word. Go read James 1 and contemplate how James words in light of Psalm 19 should ring in our ears at our need to submit to God’s will and not our own. Finally, be accountable to each other and help one another, for we all seek to be united in His glory (Jas 5:17).

Why Is Evil Allowed? – By Matt Miller

This week has been a week in which my family was touched by the evils in this world. I found myself as a Father reasoning with my grown child and contemplating the tragedy which had unfolded, the why’s, and the grief which it wrought. As we were going about the events of our week, Tuesday, there was a profound loss in the Yukon and Mustang communities as an entire family was lost to violence. Additionally, this week is the observance of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, which remembers the tragic loss of 168 souls in the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in 1995. Events such as these cause us to sometimes feel overwhelmed by the evil that is in our world. Sometimes these events cause us to ask questions, and sometimes, we ask why? Some question why a person could commit such acts, yet others pose the question as, “Why does a loving God allow such evil?”

Briefly, let us contemplate this and with the help of our Bibles we can be equipped to consider such questions and have an answer for them, understanding that these events are fully the fault of men, the fault of selfishness, the fault of sin.

Sin entered the world in the garden when Adam and his wife Eve partook of the fruit which God had forbidden (Gen 3:6-7). Because God loved us and created us with free will, sin exists. Because there is sin, men are allowed to be selfish, self-centered, and self-serving. This, Paul describes as sin ruling in the world. [Rom 5:12-14 NKJV] 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned– 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

In the first Century, there existed among the Jews an idea that sin on the part of a person or their parents could bring upon men certain illnesses. They held a belief that misfortune and disease was a judgement of God upon men. We see this in scripture a few times. In ancient times, this is the accusation of Job’s friends against him. In the days of Jesus, we see this by way of the disciples questions as they pondered why one had been born blind (Jhn 9:1-5). Jesus answer to this was that this particular blindness was not due to sin, but that He might have the opportunity to heal this man and so be made manifest and confirmed by this healing.

On another occasion, Luke records for us how some came asking Jesus about great evils and tragedy in their day. Notice their questions, and also notice Jesus answer. [Luk 13:1-5 NKJV] 1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all [other] Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all [other] men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Sin is the answer to why such tragedy happens. Sin is also the answer to why diseases afflict us, why the weather and phenomena of this earth afflict us. As King Solomon observed and contemplated all that men could engage themselves in, he concluded that men share in this life that all will end at the grave. Then, from this conclusion, he says, “[Ecc 9:11 NKJV] 11 I returned and saw under the sun that–The race [is] not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.” Solomon goes on to observe that fearing God, obeying His word, and living to serve Him was the only way that the days of men are not run in vanity (Ecl 12:13).

Paul provides for us the answer to such questions and contemplations as he addressed the Romans, “[Rom 5:8-11 NKJV] 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only [that], but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” God provided the salve for tragedy. God provided the answer that can heal in the face of such things by way of Hope.

Hope is so very powerful in each one of our lives. It is only by the blood and the sacrifice of Jesus our savior that we can find that hope. A hope that this mortal life with its sickness, afflictions, and tragedies is not the best that our existence will be. Jesus offers to us an eternal life through His sacrifice where we will overcome pain and suffering and death. We groan, the creation groans as we experience the pains of the curse of sin. Paul helps us to be encouraged and to make sense of it though. “[Rom 8:18-23 NKJV] 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected [it] in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only [that], but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

These things don’t mean that we aren’t touched by tragedy, but we are not left hopeless, because of Jesus. Let us encourage each other, and encourage those around us to know the hope which is a salve to our hearts when we must face profound loss due to evil and due to events in our lives.

Measuring Success– By Matt Miller

Paul wrote in [Col 2:6-10 NKJV] 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

I have highlighted the verse 8 in this reading, as I want us to consider the ways which Paul says men cheat one another and ultimately God. Philosophy is the first way which is mentioned. Men will reason within themselves, deceiving and being deceived by the lies that they tell themselves, the yearnings of their own hearts, and a selfishness which is man’s to own. It is a self-serving desire which makes us so susceptible to temptations. In fact, it is philosophy which spawned all manner of idols. Notice [Rom 1:22-23 NKJV] 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. In our modern
age, men have made gods of their science and reasoning leaving no room for the concept of the true God. Men have reasoned their way to disbelief and self-service, and then wonder why the world is so evil, why it seams to be consuming its inhabitants, why we can’t get along. Notice that it was because this was man’s desire and God gave us free will so we have been allowed to be overtaken in our own perversions. Paul explains this in the next few verses of the Roman letter, [Rom 1:24-25, 28-32 NKJV] 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. … 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

In addition to being given over to own philosophy, men have been given over to holding to traditions which are not God’s way. Traditions today which have resulted in man’s worship worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. How can men claim our worship is to Him when we do what we want instead of worshipping God as He prescribed? Jesus warned the Pharisees of His day and chastised them for their traditions which had made God’s law to be stricter than God had prescribed (Matt 15:3-9). These very traditions were at the heart of Paul’s own zeal in persecuting the early church (Gal 1:14).

So, it is with all that man does. We measure by our own devices; we determine good according to our standard. When we do such, we would do well to examine Israel in the days of the judges. [Jdg 21:25 NKJV] 25 In those days [there was] no king in Israel; everyone did [what was] right in his own eyes. Isn’t that the very definition of anarchy? We need to look at things how God sees them. Measure by God’s standard, look for what He wants rather than what we want. He represents perfection. It is in Christ that the fulness of God was manifested, and in Him then we have received salvation.

Go back and read our text in Col 2:7-10. Being in Christ is the way to heaven. He is the narrow gate that we have frequently discussed lately. The world would tell you that there is no God, the world would tell you to live however makes you happy, the world would tell you to live your own truth.

The Bible though, tells you that there is a better way; a right way.

[Psa 14:1 NKJV] 1 To the Chief Musician. [A Psalm] of David. The fool has said in his heart, “[There is] no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.

[Jer 10:23 NKJV] 23 O LORD, I know the way of man [is] not in himself; [It is] not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

[Act 4:12 NKJV] 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

If we want to have success that has staying power, it’s beginning and ending is the Eternal God. We must then consider all that we do by the illumination of His Word. We must measure how God measures and submit our own ways to His ways. As a Christian, it is incumbent upon each of us who wear that name to put Him and and be rooted and grounded in Him and in our faith in Him to borrow from Paul’s language.

How are you measuring success? By the numbers in your bank account? Your identity in your profession, your family, your carnal citizenship? Do you measure success in material things or spiritual? Which success are you seeking.

Jesus instructed in the sermon on the mount that each of us should seek to find him (Matt 7:7-8) and that if we want to obtain that eternal home, He is the way, truth and life (Jhn 14:6). In fact, he also said in the sermon on the mount that where the things you value are located, there you heart is also focused (Matt 6:33). Let us then measure all that we do by our standing in Christ, our relationship to God by the measure of His Son. Are we living lives which say we are focused on an eternal Home?

Invitations – By Matt Miller

In Luke 14, we find Jesus eating on the Sabbath day in the house of a Pharisee. During this scene, Luke provides us with several points where it appears Jesus tested the Pharisees and taught them things which were transformative to their thinking, if they understood what He was telling them. In the context here, Jesus uses the teaching of the donkey or ox in the ditch to cause them to think harder about the legality of healing another on the Sabbath. He also instructs them to invite the poor to their feasts rather than those able to repay the invitation, along with other teachings. It is here that we find Jesus challenge the thought of his day, and sadly a thought that prevails yet today. Notice what one of them says to Him – [Luk 14:15 NKJV] 15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed [is] he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

This statement provides Jesus an opportunity to demonstrate that many of His day, as well as our day are neglecting the invitation of the Lord to be His guests eternally.

[Luk 14:16-24 NKJV] 16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 “and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 “But they all with one [accord] began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 “And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 “So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here [the] poor and [the] maimed and [the] lame and [the] blind.’ 22 “And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 “Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel [them] to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 ‘For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”

God had been preparing Israel since the Exodus (really even before this) to receive His invitation to be reconciled to God and have eternal life. Eternal life in His presence was always the goal of God’s plan. Now that Jesus was walking among them, the Jews of His day were rejecting Him and rejecting the invitation to be at the feast. They were the ones making excuses, saying all the while “I cannot come.”

We see in this a frustration of God in the case of the master’s frustration at his invited guests. So he invites others. All the others. Types of people which the natural friends might not expect at the feast. Notice too that the master tells the servant to “Compel them to come in…”

It is instructive to consider from this parable that Jesus was telling the Jews that He has invited them as the natural friends and they were rejecting Him and His invitation. Further the invitation was going to be extended as broadly and widely as all the earth. To every creature (Matt 28:18-20).

We need to be responsive to the spiritual invitation of the Lord. The guests of the feast in the parable were concerned with natural things of an earthly nature. All of these are things which we naturally would engage in here on this earth. The first has a new piece of property which they must go inspect. Do we put things we have acquired or are seeking to acquire before our spiritual responsibilities?

The Second put the testing of his new oxen before the feast. How many people spend their time and energy to buy new toys or gadgets to engage in all manner of hobbies and recreation? The weekend comes and we find a couple of days of leisure on our hands. It is ours to do with as we please, and sadly too often, people choose to put their hobbies, their passions, their pursuits before service to God. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with engaging in many of these things, but so many in this world put these pursuits before their service to God, and when the season of such pursuits comes in view, God is moved out of their view and gets neglected.

Still others will take that which God has ordained and made to be centrally important in our lives – our family and will use that as our excuse for why we cannot come to the Lord or continue with Him in obedience.

Family can be our biggest help and also our biggest hindrance in serving the Lord. Each one of us needs to examine how we are being influenced by our family. If they are influencing us for good and helping us to prioritize spiritual things, this is right and they and we are putting our familial relation ship in Christ at the front of our relationship. Sadly, many will be influenced by family and familial cares to put other things before God and our duties as Christians. We must take special care in these relationships not to let them dominate our life and overtake our spiritual walk.

Finally, we must be prepared to respond to the Lord’s invitation. It isn’t just a onetime response to the Gospel. This is a continual prioritization of those things of a spiritual nature. We must prioritize Him and His word in our lives so that we can be constantly growing in maturity. We must prioritize serving Him over pleasures and pursuits. We must also be the servants out in the highways and hedges inviting others to the Master’s feast, so that His house will be filled. I guarantee we will not invite more than the Master has room for.

Do we understand that we are all the poor and lame and maimed who the master sent out the invitation to (beyond the Jews)? Do we understand that the master will not be patient for long and we must not reject His invitation? Do we understand that we must put priority on attending this feast, because the alternative is eternal destruction?

Spring Cleaning – By Matt Miller

A couple of weeks ago we began to experience what astronomers indicate is the season of Spring. Typically, those who garden here in Oklahoma will often say something like don’t plant before Easter.
We had one of those unique meeting of the seasons not that many days ago where in the middle of our springtime weather, we saw ice, sleet, and snow. Oklahoma’s weather is interesting in that way isn’t it? With this season of spring and the changing of our weather to warm days and cool evenings, refreshing rains and the palette of color in the outdoors transforming before our eyes from dull browns to lush greens, we often choose a weekend, a week or a day for deep cleaning our spaces. We often call this cleaning our “spring cleaning”. It’s that time when we clean more than just the daily or weekly spots that we always get around to cleaning routinely. It’s when we get up on the ladder and clean off the tops of those ceiling fans, dust the top shelf and above our China-hutches. We throw all that stuff out in our closet that doesn’t fit, and some pack up their winter clothes and bring out those made for warmer weather. Whatever your spring-cleaning routine includes and looks like, may I suggest that we look to our spiritual man and do a bit of tidying up there as well?

Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (Jhn 3:5). As Christians, we connect that birth with baptism. Jesus specifically told Nicodemus there that one must be born of water and the Spirit. In his Epistles, Paul describes that one in Christ has become a new creature or a new man (2Co 5:17; Col 3:10-12). That new man though, Paul says comes from the death of the man of sin, our former self and our self-centered conduct. Notices that the Apostle Paul in Rom 6:3-10 lays out how baptism connects us with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Because of that spiritual birth and the relationship that we have by way of that birth, we have put the old man of sin to death and been renewed spiritually.

The Psalmist prayed for a clean heart and renewed spirit (Psa 51:10). So we should petition God for such cleansing and renewal. We know that such is granted to the child of God. In fact, the Hebrew writer tells us, [Heb 10:22 NKJV] 22 “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

That spiritual renewal should be going on in our lives day by day, but as we so easily slip into complacency, the springtime is a good time to evaluate where we are and where we are headed. Here are a few thoughts that might help us spiritually to shake off the dust and weed out the things that aren’t helpful, and maybe even get rid of that which hinders us from being better servants of God.

Are we putting on the characteristics of the new man, or have we forgotten our new identity and slid back into former ideas concerning who we are?

[Col 3:10-12 NKJV] 10 and have put on the new [man] who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave [nor] free, but Christ [is] all and in all. 12 Therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

We need to pay special attention there to verse 12, as it describes characteristics which must be at our core and demonstrated in the life that we live. As a contrast with this, consider what Paul told the Ephesians about who they shouldn’t be.

[Eph 4:18-23 NKJV] 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

As we clean our homes this spring, let us examine who and what we have let into our lives.

Clean out the bad influence for “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal 5:9).

Root out those thoughts and ideas that are weighing us down or dragging us back toward sin.

[Phl 4:8-9 NKJV] 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] lovely, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Forgive. Forgive yourself, and forgive others. This is fundamental and Jesus taught it side by side with prayer (Matt 6:12-14). We have been forgiven so much, because of our relationship with God in Christ. We need to remember that and remember that because of the debt we could not pay, we must forgive the debt of others as demonstrated in Jesus Parable of the unforgiving servant (Mat 18:21-35).

Let’s clean out our lives in this season and be renewed spiritually. Make sure that our minds aren’t being polluted by the people we are letting into our lives, and let’s take control of our minds and our thinking so that we are focused on righteousness, love, and serving God. Let’s be an influence in the lives of others for such high and noble things as we have been called and help others then see that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and true happiness.

Help For A Struggling World – By Matt Miller

So many today are struggling. As I make that statement, I perceive in the world and people around me, that there are a lot of people struggling their way through life. I see people who are worried about their daily provision and daily needs struggling from one meal to the next. On nearly any major corner near the Highways in the city, we will observe those who are homeless (some truthfully, others, portraying themselves as such to take advantage of others’ charity). On the nightly news broadcasts, it seems there is no shortage of troubled youth either hurting themselves or those around them. Wars rage, people struggle and scrape and fight. Why? Why do so many feel hopeless? Why are our youth hopeless?

Many point at these problems and blame. We blame others for their lack of empathy and compassion. We blame the government as though they can provide for the emotion and spiritual needs of a city, state, or nation. We look to science and academia for learning, comprehension, and therapies which will alleviate the problems of our day. When it is all over, what can any of these do for the troubled spirit and the vexations of the heart?

Men are inadequate to provide for physical needs (we would and could have nothing of physical sustainment were it not by God’s will). We lack the understanding to deal with many mental struggles
(what do we really understand about the human mind, consciousness, and conscience). Spiritually, so many are turned off or struggling to find fulfillment. I would submit to you though, that we need to point
more hearts to God in order to overcome all of these troubles.

God created the universe, the earth, and all that are within them. The mind and power which could speak such things into existence is certainly capable to make provision for our daily physical needs. He does so by providing what is needful for us. Our health, our strength, our abilities (all of these we use in gathering, hunting, or earning that which provides for our table and our hearth). Jesus taught this very concept among the topics highlighted in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:25-32) where He concludes: [Mat 6:33-34 NKJV] 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day [is] its own trouble.

From physical worries to family strife, discontentment, and rage, emotionally the world is struggling. Science and medicine have proposed any number of drugs which treat the hormones and treat our minds, but so many of these are numbing agents. They treat the pain and mask the true cause. (I’m not proposing that you get off treatments prescribed by your doctors or telling you that such therapies have no place). What I would propose is that so many therapies and treatments for emotional distresses are necessary because we largely misplace our trust and are looking for answers in all the wrong places. People have elevated learning, science, government, self all to a position of gods.

God created us in His image, giving us authority over His creation (Gen 1:26). However, instead of serving God, we often serve ourselves, as seen in the ancient world by men building of the Tower of Babel and observed today through many modern projects. We need to ask ourselves what idols we have put in high places. Much of our emotional turmoil comes from serving the wrong things. As Christians, we should lead the world to the one solution for peace: Jesus. His love meets our emotional needs, and when we
prioritize God in our lives, it addresses our inadequacies.

Spiritually, we were made to worship, honor, and praise Him. Yet God did not desire to make robots which honor him. He gave us a free will and wants us to want to serve Him. He has given us a season of walking upon this earth and the choices that we make here will determine for us what our eternity will look like. This is the missing piece in our world today. Go examine Paul’s observation of man through the ages in Romans chapter 1. There you will find that men were allowed to be deceived, because that was what men wanted. Men didn’t want to retain God in their thoughts or in their memories, or in their service. Many think that they worship nothing. There is no god and they do not serve any master. All of that is a lie. They simply don’t perceive.

We were made to worship and created for serving God. When we choose to not do that for which we were made, we quickly get things off balance and out of whack. Men serve themselves. Men worship learning and thought. Men depend on government for their very existence. In all of this, men are placing above God those things and institutions which God created, and they serve without true understanding. It is a blind world, groping in the darkness of sin. That is why the Gospel and the message of Salvation in Jesus is so important.

Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love for his prized creation. Jesus came to save a world that is already dead. [Jhn 3:16-18 NKJV] 16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Jesus loved us and gave His own life for us. This should cause us to look to Him for everything, trust in Him because He is God and He has provided for us richly. [Jhn 15:10 NKJV] 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Our misplaced devotions and love have brought all manner of problems into this world. Let us restore God to the place He deserves and live not for ourselves and that which is created but live to serve God because He alone is God. Revive men’s hearts by pointing them to God and to His service.

Forgive & Forgiving – By Matt Miller

[Mat 6:9-13 NKJV] 9 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it is] in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

We might recognize the scripture here as “The Lord’s Prayer”. You might have recited it daily at school growing up. It is and was taught by the Lord as a model for how we should pray. How to address God
and petition Him. I want to call our attention though to verse 12 here. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This phrase petitions for forgiveness, but links our forgiveness by God to
our own forgiveness of others. Does the link between the two stick in our head? Do we remember that we have to forgive? In fact, forgiving others is fundamental to our love. We do it all the time within our families, within our homes. It is so natural in that context that we don’t even think about it most of the time. In that context, it seems easy doesn’t it?

Yet in other contexts, we find it quite difficult. It strikes me that this is the very point maybe of what Jesus was conveying as he was teaching prayer here. For in the very next verse, Matthew records for us that Jesus calls this point out.

[Mat 6:14 NKJV] 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
We see that Jesus describes as one of the conditions of our forgiveness we must forgive others. As Jesus disciples pressed for just how forgiving they must be, Jesus explained it by way of parable.

[Mat 18:21-35 NKJV] 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 “And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 “But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 “The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took [him] by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 “And he would
not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 “So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
32 “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” When conveyed as debt, do we better understand sin and our forgiveness? Our sin is a debt that we cannot repay. There is no way to take it back, make recompense that fixes it or can remove the spot. Forgiveness then is the only answer. This is true for us in relation to God, and it is true between us as we have troubles caused by our imperfections, faults, and outright damages done to one another as men and women. Paul describes those in Christ as being part of the household of faith (Gal 6:10) and compels us to do good toward each other. The
beginning of doing good to one anther maybe is to have the kind of forgiveness that Jesus described as being required. Paul told the Ephesians and Colossians that forgiveness was something to be offered as we have ourselves been forgiven by Christ.

[Eph 4:32 NKJV] 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

[Col 3:13 NKJV] 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also [must do].

So forgiveness is a condition for us to meet. God by way of the gospel provided the conditions by which we could be forgiven. Paul describes it in part, [Rom 5:6-8 NKJV] 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

In order to find forgiveness, it starts with being in Christ, but then it also is required of us to forgive. When we forgive, we release. We no longer hold to account the wrongs of others. This is what Jesus
was teaching the Apostles, and this is what Paul was telling these early Christians. This is what we must also apply to all of our relationships today. It is a condition for our own forgiveness.

Forgiveness is grace, and mercy. Forgiveness liberates. Forgiveness is love. Forgiveness heals. When we think about all the ugliness of our sin, we should be made to be further in awe of our God, who has made for us a path and set of conditions wherein our sins might even be forgiven. So forgive. Forgive and be free of the weight not of your neighbors’ debt, but that of your own debt.