Philippians 3:13-14 The Power of Focus

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which ae behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press towards the goal for the prize of he upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

   The Joshua CodeThese two verses are our memory verses from the book: The Joshua Code by O.S. Hawkins. This book provides a devotional thought on 52 Bible verses that every Christian should know. The verses above deal with our FOCUS as believers. The devotional was a wonderful reminder of the power of focus. When a beam of light is focused it can cut through steel (a laser beam). Focus in life is what is needed if we are going to accomplish anything of significant value.

   Too many times we get caught up in doing so many things that we do nothing well. As a pastor I see this all the time. People wanting to be involved in everything, but never really doing anything well. They also are unwilling to let go and allow others the joy of serving. We forget that doing one thing well can make us an expert, and exceptional in training or mentoring those who are following in our footsteps. I would like to think that my one thing as a pastor is preaching the Gospel. I want to be known as a gospel communicator!

   It is also important for us to realize that focus is what gives us that impetus to always be moving forward. As a pastor I can never be satisfied with what I think I know. No, I need to always be in the school of lifelong learning. I must always be ready to learn new ways to accomplish daily chores. Far too many people give up learning, and still far too many have all together stopped reading. What? Pick up the book in whatever field of study you are interested in, and learn (GROWTH). Reach out for those wonderful things that God has set before you. Someone said, “If you are not dead, you must not stop learning.”

   Focus will push us forward. What are your short-range and long-ranger goals? Where do you want to be 18 months from today? How much further down the track of life will you be? Well your life count for something? Pursue the dreams that God places within you. Don’t quit – go after all that God designed you to become.

   Where are you going? Set that goal. Like a hunter who has a scope on his rifle, so the believer must also scope out where he is headed. Set your sights on where he is headed. Now, get up and get going, and as you go keep Christ always before you.

The Word is Mightier than the Sword

pn and swordThe Word is Mightier than the Sword Someone said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I wonder who said that? Well, I kind of do know because I did a Google search. “The pen is mightier than the sword” is a metonymic adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy. How true is that statement though? It is true if you look at biblical Christianity. Remember in the Garden, that Peter pulled a sword, and Jesus told him to put it away (Matt. 26:52). His kingdom would not come by the sword. No, the kingdom of God has come by word and deed! Just think of the millions of people the world over that have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the word of God. Billy Graham alone has preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people in 185 countries.

The Bible teaches us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).

Here we have a beautiful picture of the “word” that became the “living word” (See John 1:14, where the word became flesh). The living word took on skin and bones. Jesus became a man. The Bible tells us that He came to reveal to us the Father. In Jesus Christ we saw the Father (God).

The Bible (New Testament) is a message to mankind. It is that which is mightier than the sword. As a matter of fact we read in Hebrews 4:12 the following truth, “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.” The word has the power to cut and to do spiritual surgery on a living soul.

The teaching of the word of God has changed more lives, than the sword of man. You might be able to get converts to a religion by sword point, or the threat of having ones head cut off, but have you really made a convert? Outwardly you may, but not inwardly. No, it doesn’t happen with a human sword. However, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) has great power to change the human condition.

There is a wonderful verse in the book of Romans that teaches us, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). Yes, this is even true from the Old Testament. In the book of Isaiah we read, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

The sword of man may change ones behavior, but the word of God changes the human nature. I for one am so thankful for what God has done in my own heart. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t pause and thank God for the change that has transpired in my life because of the power of God’s word.

May we remember this simple truth: The pen (God’s word) is mightier than the sword of man.

I hope that you and I will remember just how powerful the word of God is. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matt. 4:4)

Can you NAME the books of the Bible? Old and New Testament?

How many Christians do you think can actually NAME all of the 66 books of the Bible today? Are you aware that it is reported that within Christianity right now that we have the largest illiterate group of followers of Jesus Christ in the history of the church. In other words God’s people (those who claim to know Jesus Christ as Savior) do not know His book (the Bible). Christians today are ignorate when it comes to the Scriptures. For example – take the brief 10 question test below:

1. What are the five books of Moses? Name them in order.

2. What leader followed Moses and lead Israel into the Promise Land?

3. What is the worship book of the Old Testament? What is the longest chapter?

4. What books make up the Major Prophets? Can you name them?

5. What book has the theme of suffering? Can you name the man who suffered?

6. What is the last book of the Old Testament?

7. How many silent years are there between the Old and New Testaments?

8. Can you name the beatitudes found in Matthew 5? There are eight of them.

9. What were the three temptations of Jesus? Can you name them?

10. In which New Testament book do you read about the birth of the church?

As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ I am concerned for the lack of biblical knowledge God’s people have. Many young people today see no connection with reading God’s Word and having God work through them. If asked, “How does the Bible speak to you?” They respond, “I don’t get anything out of reading the Bible.” Really? I personally believe that it is through Bible reading and studying the Scripture that we hear God speak to us. Every time we open the Bible God has a word for us.

My friend, Richard Butler (not the Arian Nation leader of years back), once wrote on a card that he gave me the following words: “Seven days without the LORD makes one weak.” Today we have many sick Christians because they never pick up their Bible and read it. People eat three squares a day (many eat more), and they don’t think about skipping a meal. How is it possible that we treat the Bible so lightly today.

I believe that it is high time for God’s people to step up to the line, to require more out of your “walk” with God. How is it that we can say we are Christians, but refuse to read the Bible? I know that life is busy for everyone, but people (Christians) seem to make time for movies, theatre, and going out and playing. Many young people have no problem giving 6-8 hours a day to playing X-box online with others (ho probably haven’t been in their Bible either).

Are you aware that those who practice the Muslim faith actually grow up memorizing the Koran? I heard one muslim speaker say, “How can Christians say that they love their God, but they don’t know what His book teaches?” He went on to say, “We know what the Koran teaches!”

A good friend of mine, Dr. Job Martin has written a book entitled, The Evolution of a Creationist, and in the front of the book, before you get to any chapters he has these words penned: “If you have not had time to read the Bible today, then you do not have time to read this book.”

My challenge to all of us is simple – READ God’s Word. Are you aware that you can read the entire Bible in under 90 hours? That’s it – 90 hours to read through both the Old and New Testaments.

Answers: 1. Moses – Genesis through Deuteronomy. 2. Joshua 3. Psalms; Psalm 119 4. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel 5. Job; Job 6. Malachi 7. 400 years 8. See Matthew 5:3-12 9. Turn stone into bread; Throw yourself down; Fall down and worship me 10. Acts 2

Don’t be an ignorant Christian – Know what you believe. Make it your goal in 2012 to learn all you can about Christianity and what you believe, and why you believe it.

All about the Bible for New Beginners

The Bible is the Word of God (II Tim 3:16-17)

The Bible has two parts – Old Testament and New Testament

There are 39 books that make up the Old Testament – Genesis through Malachi.

The Old Testament has five divisions (think in terms of the five fingers on your hand).

Thumb – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (these books are called the Law, and were complied by Moses).

Pointer – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I&II Samuel, I&II Kings, I&II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (Actually the Old Testament ends here. That is everything else that follows fits within these twelve books).

Tall Man – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (These books are called poetry books, an are the wisdom collection of the Old Testament. Job deals with suffering, Psalms with worship, Ecclesiastes with man’s ultimate purpose, and Song of Solomon, married love. The Bible is never boring reading – never!).

Ring Finger – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel (Isaiah has been called the Bible in miniature in that it too has 66 chapters. Jeremiah is the weeping prophet, Ezekiel sees the great vision of the household of Israel coming together – the valley of dry bones. Really awesome (check out this video). Daniel is a fast paced read, and man O man is it exciting. These five books are called the Major Prophets, only because of the number of chapters in them. All of their messages are from God).

Pinky – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Naham, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (These last twelve books are referred to as the Minor Prophets. Minor only in the since that they are shorter than the Major Prophets. These Prophets all spoke to Israel either before, during, or after their captivity. Presently I am preaching through the Minor Prophets. You might want to catch a message or two by subscribing to the Cutting It Straight Podcast through iTunes. See link. When Malachi penned his work it brought the Old Testament to a close. No additional word was heard from God for 400 years. These are called the silent years).

The New Testament has four divisions. Think of the webbing beween your fingers. There are 27 books in the New Testament – a must read for everyone. Are you aware that the Bible is still the best selling bok of all times?

First web between Thumb and Pointer – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (These books are called the Gospels. Gospel means: Good News. After you read these first four books you will have a view of the life of Jesus Christ from four perspectives. Matthew presentes Jesus as King of the Jews. Mark presents Jesus as the servant. Luke presents Jesus in all of His humanity. John presents Jesus as the Son of God. These four Gospels break the silence between the Old and the New Testaments. Here we discover that God sent His Son into the world to save all who will turn from their sin, and turn to Him for salvation. This was why He died on the cross for our sins, mine and yours).

Second web between the Pointer and Tall man – Acts (This is the historical book of the New Testament. It has 28 chapters and is a must read. In this book we read about the promise of the Holy Spirit, the command to evangelize the world (1:8), and about the birth of the CHURCH (That’s us!). See Acts 2 for all that occurred. Peter preached a powerful sermon and some 3,000 people responded and gave their lives to Jesus Christ. God added to the CHURCH daily those that were being saved. The great missions adventures of Paul and his companions are found in chapters 13-28. Again, this is a must read if you want to know how CHURCHES began).

Third web between Tall man and Ring Finger – Romans, I&II Chronicles, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I&II Thessalonians, I&II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, I&II Peter, I&II&III John, Jude (These are letters to churches and pastors, to individuals, and to a collective body of called out ones. It is believed that the Apostle Paul wrote 13 of them. James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote one. Peter wrote three that bear his name. John, the disciples whom Jesus loved wrote three of the epistles. These books are usually divided into sections. I like to see them in the following way: The fist half is usually doctrine. The second half is usually practice. How to put the doctrine into practice. It is true that what we believe determines how we live.

The fourth web between Ring finer and Pinky – Revelation (This is the Prophecy book of the New Testament. It has 22 chapters. Chapter 1 is an introduction. It tells us that it is all about UNVEILING the person of Jesus Christ. Make sure that you highlight verses 1,3, and 19. Chapters 2-3 are letter written to seven churches that existed in Asia Minor. I also believe that they represent seven types of churches in existence today. Chapter 4-5 we get a glimpse into the Throne room of Almighty God. God is on the Throne, and Jesus Christ, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world is given the title deed to the world. Chapters 6-19 is about the literal seven-years Tribulation Period that shall come upon the earth. It’s purpose is to turn the heart of the Jewish people to their messiah. In chapter 19, we have the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In Chapter 20, we read about the literal 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ upon the earth. In chapters 21-22, we read about the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. The book ends with the words, “Even so come Lord Jesus”. Amen!

So there we have our first post to this new blog site. My intention is to continue to pass along easy to understand facts and insights about the Word of God. I may even attach full sermons, and other videos, and pictures that will help all of us to gain a better grasp of the precious word of God.


Bible Reading

The first Sunday of May I encouraged the SLBC congregation to read through the Gospel of Matthew. It would be interesting to see how many actually did this. I heard some very discouraging news on my way to the office this morning. Most Christians who claim to be Christians are not practicing their Christianity. That is terrible sad news, and the trend must stop. Years ago I mentioned to the SLBC family that 70% of all teenagers that leave for college stop attending church altogether. I told the body that as a pastor that was unacceptable to me. I didn’t want that for the teenagers of SLBC. A vital faith is what we want for all of God’s people. If you want a solid faith you MUST become a Bible reader. Read the Word of God, and allow it to penetrate into the core of your very being. The Bible says, 

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (Joshua 1:8) 
If you read through Matthew you probably saw the following:
  • Matthew 1 – Genealogy and birth of Jesus Christ
  • Matthew 2 – Visit from the wise men (Wise men still seek Him today)
  • Matthew 3 – John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus (his cousin)
  • Matthew 4 – Satan temps Jesus – he fights using Scripture (there is a key for us)
  • Matthew 5 – The beginning of the Sermon on the Mt – Beatitudes shared
  • Matthew 6 – Deeds, prayer, fasting, money, and worry talked about
  • Matthew 7 – Deal with the speck in your eye, Ask, seek, and knock, Narrow way, Be fruitful, build on the rock
  • Matthew 8 – Miracles performed – from healing the sick,quieting a storm, to casting out demons
  • Matthew 9 – Paralytic healed, Matthew called, and more healing
  • Matthew 10 – Names of the Twelve Apostles given, sending out of the Twelve, and other topics
  • Matthew 11 – John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus, Jesus offers true rest for the soul
  • Matthew 12 – Jesus is LORD over the Sabbath, heals on the Sabbath, accused of casting out demons by the prince of demons
  • Matthew 13 – Parables (A view of the Prophecy through the Ages)
  • Matthew 14 – John the Baptist is beheaded, Jesus feeds 5,000, and walks on water
  • Matthew 15 – Defilement comes from the heart, additional healing
  • Matthew 16 – Pharisees and Sadducces seek a sign
  • Matthew 17 – Mount of Transfiguration
  • Matthew 18 – Discussion over who will be greatest, how to deal with a sinning brother, parable of unforgiving servant
  • Matthew 19 – Marraige and divorce is the topic
  • Matthew 20 – Workers in the vineyard, greatness in serving, more healing 
  • Matthew 21 – Triumphal entry into Jerusalem
  • Matthew 22 – Parable of the Wedding feast, discussion about the Resurrection
  • Matthew 23 – The many Woe’s (Can you find them all?)
  • Matthew 24 – Jesus speaks about the future end times
  • Matthew 25 – Parable of the ten virgins, parable of the talents, and discussion of the judgment of the nations
  • Matthew 26 – Plot to kill Jesus, Judas agrees to betray Jesus, Passover celebrated, Lord’s Supper instituted, Jesus prays, and is arrested
  • Matthew 27 – Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate, soldiers mock Him, Simon carries Jesus’ cross, Jesus is crucified
  • Matthew 28 – The great RESURRECTION chapter, and the giving of the Great Comission
   I hope that you found your reading through Matthew exciting. Jesus is being presented as King in this book. Is He the King of your life? Get into the Bible and surrender to His Lordship over you. 

Nothing but Leaves

In my Bible reading out of Matthew 21, I came across the following words, "He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves," What an indictment upon the nation of Israel. Better yet, what about the Church of the Living God! Where is the fruit today? Where are the workers today in the vineyard? The work never stops – souls need to hear the great gospel message – missionaries need to be sent across the globe – grass needs to be cut around the church building – nursery workers need to watch small infants – disciples must be made. Yes, when Jesus Christ comes a Second time will He find faith on the earth? When He looks into our lives will He find fruit?