A God-Filled Life Speaks Louder Than Billy Mays

Scripture: Titus 2:

1-6Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives.

Observation:  Living a God-Filled life enhances your credibility and makes you a more effective witness for Christ.

Application:  This past week we have seen several big personalities pass away, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Billy Mays, I wish their families, friends and fans condolences.  Each of these people have been heard by countless millions, and they all had an impact on my life.  When I was in elementary school I had the famous poster of Farrah in my bedroom. In the eighth grade I learned to do the moonwalk by watching and rewinding videos of Michael Jackson.  I can still hear Ed McMahon saying “Heeeres Johnny!” and hoping to see him standing on my front porch with an oversized check from Publishers Clearing House.  I often fall asleep with the T.V. on and I don’t know how many nights Billy Mays has woke me up with his exuberant descriptions of various products.

As I think about how many people they reached and how effective they were at capturing our attention I have to ask myself, how can I be more effective at getting peoples attention on spiritual matters.  How can I reach people for God in a powerful way like this?  I’m sure that I can’t make a poster like Farrah, I can’t dance or sing like Michael, I don’t have the oversized checks to pass around like Ed, and I’ll never be the salesman that Billy was.  But one thing I can do is try to live my life in a godly manner so that my witness of Christ is strengthened and the good news gospel is spread in a way that doesn’t add to the negativity that seems so prevalent in our society when it comes to the message of the church.

There are many people who are striking out against the Christian community and the message of grace that we are commissioned to teach. Any opportunity to point out our shortcomings is used to weaken that message.  I’ve seen so many good ministries destroyed by the uncovering of ungodliness in the messenger, that I can’t count them all.  From where I stand I know that we are all just imperfect people, but those who oppose the church are eager to use any imperfections that can be found, to crush the message.

It falls upon the church then to be even more diligent in our efforts of being more Christ like and walking the walk when we talk the talk.  We are to live in love for one another, and submission to God.  We are to be temperate and kind, not self-indulgent, of good reputation and above all merciful and forgiving.  When we lash out in judgment, (because we know that we are far from perfect) we can expect that judgmental attitude to come back to us in full measure.

It’s only by living a God-Filled life, a life of love and compassion for all that we can strengthen the message that we preach to the world.  The message of forgiveness, grace and mercy is a message for the world.  We can preach to the choir all day long, but it won’t expand the church and win more souls.  We have to reach out! 

We could learn a lot from Billy Mays, we should be excited to share the love of God with anyone who will listen, and if they aren’t listening, SPEAK LOUDER by living your life as an exuberant example of God’s love. 

Maybe the church could adopt some of Mays’ catch phrases and apply them to our message of eternal life.

This life can be abundantly blessed by living for God “But Wait!  There’s More!!” because there is a life beyond this one and it can be one filled with unspeakable joy!  But you have to act NOW, this is a limited time offer! Don’t delay, the age of grace is coming to an end.  People of God are standing by to pray with you! The next ten people to ask Jesus into their hearts will receive the FREE GIFT of eternal life, forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God and peace within that the world can never offer.

Prayer:  Father God,

Help me to live a life of godliness which strengthens the message of your grace and mercy.  Grant me the ability to put aside self-indulgence and take upon myself the task of living for you.  Help me to shine forth your love to the world who needs you and forgive me when I fall short of how I should live.

Love Michael

Yield:  I surrender my self indulgence and take up the task of living a God-Filled life.

Joyful Fear

Scripture: Psalm 86:

11: Train me, God, to walk straight;
then I’ll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.

Observation: Trusting God and allowing Him to lead you brings you to an exhilarating place of fellowship, a worship in joyful fear.

Application: When I was a young boy, I remember my uncle and I walking out to a frozen pond on my grandfathers farm.  We wanted to have fun on the ice, but my uncle made me stand on the bank first while he made sure the ice was thick enough.  I watched him as he took a large tree limb that had broken off, and hammered the edge of the ice.  The pond was frozen at least four or five inches thick, I don’t think I’ve seen a pond frozen over that much since then.

He started walking on the ice, and told me to come behind him, but to only walk where he did, to put my feet only where he stepped.  Slowly we walked across the pond, my uncle was much larger than me and knew that if there were any thin spots, he would find them first.  I stayed behind him until he was satisfied that the ice would hold the weight of both of us.  Once he felt certain that we would be safe we began to slide and skate over the ice.

We didn’t have ice skates, but we could slide all around and we had so much fun.  All the while I remember there was a fear within me that the ice would break, but at the same time I knew that I was safe because my uncle was with me and even if something unexpected happened, I knew he would protect me.  It was a Joyful Fear.   Whenever I watch the movie “Bambi” and I see the scene on the frozen pond, I can’t help but to remember that day.

This scripture also reminds me of that time.  We follow God walking in the path that He determines for us, “Step only where I do,” and once we know that we are secure, we are able to worship and fellowship with God in a special way (we skate on the pond).  It is a place of joyful fear.

Prayer: Lord God,

Help me to follow you, and walk straight in the path you set before me.  Keep me safe from the things that might distract me from the joyful fear of true worship and fellowship that we enjoy.

Love Michael

Lord Hear Our Prayer

Scripture: Psalms 80:

1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
       you who lead Joseph like a flock.
       You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
       shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
       Awaken your might;
       come and save us.

3 Restore us, O God;
       make your face shine on us,
       that we may be saved.

Observation:  The Lord hears the prayers of those who through their obedience call out to Him.

Application:  Our scripture today is a cry to God to hear and restore Israel, and it is one of many such Psalms.  We to sing out to God in our despair and ask the same questions as we see in the scripture time and time again.  “Why have you forsaken us God?”  And the answer is that God had not forsaken Israel, nor has He forsaken us, rather Israel had forsaken God, and so do we.  Repeatedly they had been disobedient and followed after their own passions, which is why they are good representations of our own situation. 

God is always merciful when we come before him in obedience and submission to His will.  If we act out of selfishness and pride, we are being disobedient to God, and are removing ourselves from the place of protection and favor that He desires us to dwell in.

We may cry out “Lord hear our prayer!”, but if we pray for our own glory, for our pride to be validated, for our own will to be done rather than the will of The Father, then we can’t expect our prayers to be answered in those ways.  We must be attendants of His grace, participators in His love, sharing the gospel of Christ with the world.  For God to work in our lives, His Spirit, His Grace, His truth must be at work through us.

Let us then take up the commission that we have been charged with to love our enemies, pray for them who despitefully use us, and reach out to those who have no love in their hearts with the love God has placed within our own.  As we strive to show forth His grace, love, kindness and mercy, we will experience it more in our own lives and our nation, our church, our family will be restored and healed by His presence.

Lord Hear Our Prayer!

Prayer: Almighty Father,

Help me to walk in obedience to you.  Grant me the strength to be loving in the face of hatred, to be forgiving in the face of prejudice, to be kind in the face of malice and to be light in the face of darkness.  I thank you for the great love you have given to me, help me to exhibit it to the world around me more and more every day.

Love Michael

Yield: I give up thinking God is not hearing my prayers, and look within to see where I’m not following his command of love.

Love Hurts

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:

12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Observation:  Living a life of love makes you vulnerable to those with an agenda, but this is what we are called to do; it’s not the easy way.

Application:  As the Christian Church walks in surrender to God and love for one another we are constantly exposed  to the deceptive practices of those who have not found the spirit of The Lord within them.  The natural response to persecution is to counterattack, to rise up in an onslaught of revolutionary zeal, fighting for the cause of God.  But we have to remember that the natural response is often the wrong course of action for those who follow Christ.

We have to remember that we are sheep.  And we have a Shepherd who loves us.  He knows the things we are facing and will be with us no matter what we are going through.  When the wolves attack, the sheep don’t fight back, rather, they are dependent upon the protection of the Shepherd. 

I am not saying that we should live as the wolves do, actually the contrary is my point, we are not wolves and we need to understand that the destruction or driving away of the wolves is not our job.  Our greatest command is one of love.  Love God, and Love one another.  How can there be hatred (even of the wolves) where love abounds? 

Prayer: God of Love,

Help me to be dependent upon you for my protection, and keep me in the green pastures where Your Spirit fills my heart and my life.  When I experience persecution, remind me that it is to be expected in this world but that you have overcome the world. Grant me forgiveness in my heart for the wolves that attack, and comfort me with your protection.

Love Michael

Yield:  I surrender my fight against the persecutions I face.

Reluctant Obedience

Scripture: Jonah 4:

1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, "Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

Observation: God calls us to love each other, even those we don’t agree with, especially those we don’t like.

Application:  This little story about Jonah is told time and time again to us as Children.  We all learn in some of our earliest years of Biblical instruction about how Jonah tried to flee and was swallowed by the whale and how he eventually relented to God’s will and agreed to obey, and how at that point he was spared by being spat back up onto the shore so that he could preach to the people of Nineveh.   The moral we are told is “No matter where you go, you can’t run away from God.”  It’s a great story, and a good moral for us to understand, but I think that there are aspects of the story that are good teachings for us beyond the childhood Sunday School rooms, there are some good lessons for the world we live in today and especially the dominate culture that I see in America.

Although Jonah was saved from the whale, and the people of Nineveh repented, still the story has some tragic points and in the end I feel very sad for the reluctant prophet because he never overcame his own anger and hatred.  As you know, there had been a lot of strife between Jonah’s people and the people of Nineveh.  There had been fighting, and killing, and crimes against each other.  The last thing Jonah wanted to see was forgiveness for them.  He longed for the destruction and hoped that they wouldn’t listen to his preaching.  But they did, and God had mercy on them.  So here in our scripture we have Jonah, angry at God for making him take part in the salvation of these people that he despised. 

God’s will was accomplished in Nineveh but I think that God was trying to bring Jonah to a higher place that (as far as we know from the scriptures) he was never able to get to.  God was trying to teach Jonah that we are all part of His creation, we all belong to God, and He loves us all, and wants us to experience that love for ourselves.

People that we consider as enemies are also part of God’s creation.  We tend to group them all together and paint them as a singular manifestation of evil, a heresy to be stomped out and destroyed.  From our point of view its us against them, but from God’s point of view its just us fighting among ourselves.  These enemies have different names and faces, they are people of different nationalities, people of different faiths and religions, people of different lifestyles.  And many of us who are people of faith and people of God, would if we could line them all up, march them out of the city and stone them to death to rid the world of these who we see as outsiders and enemies.

Violence is never the way, intolerance is never the way, and hatred of any person, or group of people is never a good thing.  Being tolerant of others doesn’t mean we have to condone everything they do, but it means we have to accept them for who they are, and allow God to mold them into something different if that is His will.  We are to be agents of love, agents of mercy and forgiveness and peace.  Far too often we square off for the big fight against the forces of evil, without realizing that in doing so we take into ourselves the very things that make people evil.  The things that you fight so hard against, you get more of in life, because you take them into yourself. 

If we could lay aside our differences and learn to live in love and respect for one another, we would see the true enemy (the devil) bound in chains and locked away so that we could live in peace and harmony with God.  Fanciful dreaming you say?  Wishful thinking, it can never happen?  I say it can, if we would just learn to stop fighting, and start loving as God loves.  

Don’t hate the Ninevites, God loves them as much as He does you!

Prayer: Lord of us all,

Grant me the ability to love those who oppose me and to minister to the world through your grace and mercy, through your understanding and acceptance.  Keep my feet planted firmly in your love and guide me into an understanding that I can only experience love from you as I show that love to others, even those I don’t agree with.

Love Michael

Yield: I have no right to be angry, when God is being merciful.  And He is ALWAYS merciful.

God Wants To Break Your Heart

 Scripture: Joel 2:

13 Rend your heart
       and not your garments.
       Return to the LORD your God,
       for he is gracious and compassionate,
       slow to anger and abounding in love,
       and he relents from sending calamity.

Observation: No matter what it looks like on the outside, God knows what’s happening in your heart and soul and its there that He desires to touch you.

Application: It was a custom in the Jewish culture to tear one’s clothing to show remorse, sorrow, disgust or pain.  Jacob tore his clothing when he thought that Joseph was dead, David tore his garments when Saul died, and there are other examples in the scriptures as well.  It was an outward symbolic gesture of a great pain inside.  Although often genuine, the outward action of mourning could often be faked, and in fact we know from the scripture that sometimes mourners were hired and paid to perform these shallow acts.

Sometimes  we show pain on the outside when it doesn’t really match what’s going on inside.  In the modern Christian culture we may not rip up our clothing very often but most of us show our pain with our tears.  As I think about it, I can remember many examples of people who showed a lot of remorse on the outside but who probably felt very different inside.  Although most of the time I think we are genuine in the expressions of our feelings, still like the tearing of clothing, outward displays of emotion can be manufactured for a purpose. 

God is not interested in what we want the world to think about us, He is concerned with what we really feel.  God is never fooled by the costumes that we wear.  It is your heart that must be broken as you come before the Lord.  True repentance and surrender can not be proven by a tearful testimonial, but must be lived out from a daily obedience and a true desire to allow God to lead.

It doesn’t matter what the local congregation thinks, and its not important what the pastor thinks, the opinions of the people are easily swayed, but God knows what we really are, and how we really feel.  Let us then come to Him in true repentance and in Spirit and truth, that we may receive His mercy and compassion which are given eagerly when we seek Him with our whole hearts.

Prayer: God who knows me,

Please make me genuine and real in my search for you.  Let me come before you as a broken vessel who is in need of your mending.  Grant me the ability to feel true compassion with my whole heart and make me always to be true in my expressions of the love you have placed within.

Love Michael

Surrender:  I give up my torn clothing.

It Aint Easy Being Cheesy

 Scripture:  1 Timothy 6:

1 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Observation: The practice of living a good and upright life is not always the easiest thing, or most natural path, it is something we strive for continually.

Application:  Part of being a Christian is the living of a good and upright life.  If all we do is talk the talk, then our faith is without a foundation.  We are to walk the walk of godliness and live as best we can in adherence to the teachings of Jesus.  And it’s not the easy path that we have chosen my friends, its the more treacherous road upon which we walk, the one less traveled, the way is narrow, and filled with danger. 

Paul tells Timothy in our scripture that he has to flee from the evil things, and pursue the good.  In other words, its not always going to be the easiest thing to do when you’re trying to live your life in surrender to Christ.  Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness are not always going to be right there waiting for you, like a hat that you put on before leaving the house, you have to go after those things, you have to pursue them.

Paul says, “fight the good fight of the faith,” and it often feels like a fight when we know that operating in the natural is so much easier than operating in the ways that Jesus taught us.  We have to fight against our natural urge to repay anger with anger, and hate with hate, instead we repay anger with compassion, hate with love.  It may not be the easiest path, and it may not be the natural way, but as we fight our way through the natural world, and pursue the higher callings we are laying up for ourselves treasures that go far beyond our understanding.  We are passing the test, and moving on to the next world with wisdom and understandings which are unattainable by those who have taken the wider easier road.

Prayer:  Lord God Jehovah,

Help me Lord to live a life in service and surrender to your will and commands.  Forgive me when I choose the easy way and listen to my human nature rather than your Spirit.  Grant me the strength to pursue the good things in life that you would have me exemplify and let me be an instrument of your peace.

Love Michael

Surrender:  I give up my natural tendencies and cling to the goodness of Christ’s commands.