Tuesday, September 26, 2017

GROWING OUR FAITH # 2: Our faith and our tithe!

On Sundays at FBC, Lexington, Tennessee, I am preaching out of the book of James and the series is called “The JAMES Experiment: Does Faith really work?” We are talking about growing our faith. Last week I wrote that God tests our faith through trials. This week I want us to think about how God tests our faith through our tithe.

Tithe…now isn’t that a fun word? A Baptist pastor can say the word “tithe” and watch people cringe, cry, coward, or cop-out. Ha! I am, of course, talking about the topic of faith and our money. Did you know that money is one of the greatest tests of faith in your life? Our material possessions test our character and our faith. For a lot of people, their possessions have become the god of their lives. Possessions or the pursuit of possessions has become the priority and focus of their lives. I have found that this issue of money is one of the greatest tests we face because many people do not want to give up their own self-made god to worship and give to the one true God, who is the creator of all things.

Once Jesus said this very thing about money in Luke 16:11, So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? When the Bible clearly teaches that we are to give, we often do not realize that we are being tested. The spiritual maturity of our Christian lives is clearly revealed the moment we are asked to open up our hearts and wallets to tithe, give, or to trust God with our possessions. To tithe is a demonstration of our faith. To give 10% of your total income to the Lord instead of to the mortgage payment, your credit card debts, your personal entertainment, food, or going the places you want to go, is a way of showing the world that the Lord has top priority in your life. When I’m willing, ready and able to generously give the Lord knowing that this money could be spent for other things, it is a test. Just like God uses trials to test our faith, He also uses our tithe (money) to test our faith.

Paul spoke clearly to this issue of money when he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 8:7-8, Now as you excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this grace. I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love." What we learn from Paul is that our money tests our faith and it is really a test of our love! Every time we give, we grow! Our faith grows…our love grows…our hope grows…our spiritual maturity grows. Every time we give we break the cycle of materialism in our lives. Giving demonstrates who and what we really love. We give that that which is of most priority in our lives. Follow your money trail and you will discovered the destination of your love and devotion.

Get really honest right now and answer these 2 questions:
1. If God looked at the giving that you give to Him would God say that you really trust Him?
2. If God looked at your giving would he say that have you been afraid to do what His word says?

Rick Warren once said, “In this area of giving the most sensitive nerve in the human body goes from the wallet to the heart.” I think he is right! God tests our faith through trials, but also through our tithe! Will you pass the test?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GROWING OUR FAITH: Our Faith on Trial!

Right now, at First Baptist Church, Lexington, Tennessee, where I am the pastor, I just started at new sermon series called “THE JAMES EXPERIMENT: Does faith really work?” The Bible is filled with many things to say about faith. I thought I might write a few things related to this series to help encourage others in their faith. 

Today I want to share a few words about how God tests our faith through Trials:

Trials test our faith as the people of God! The New Testament alone is filled with God’s commands for believers to obey. These commands are the things God tells us we should do or not do. These commands are not presented to us as options, but as obligations. Someone has said there are just over 1000 commands in the New Testament alone. Some of them seem irrational or even crazy to us. Others are very inconvenient, hard, trying, time consuming or they seem quite impossible. These commands are trials in our lives. What is on  trial? Our faith in on trial to determine if it is real or not. They are there to try our faith.

When we face a trial of our faith in relationship to God’s commands, what we are ultimately deciding is this: Who am I going to trust? Am I going to believe what God says to do or am I going to believe what feels right to do? For example, when Jesus tells us to “Turn the other cheek” or the “Love your enemies”, we are on trial. Our faith is being challenged at its very core because on the surface we might disagree with the command, not understand it, or find it to be really hard to accomplish. It is at that point in our lives when we decide, “Am I going to trust what God says to do? Am I going to obey what He says is right? Or am I going to trust my own opinion or my feelings and do what I think is right in my own eyes?"

The Bible is filled with examples of God putting the faith of His people on trial. One that is hard for me to grasp is God demanding of Abraham to sacrifice his only son Issac. That makes no sense to me. I cannot wrap my mind around that. Still, ole Abe trusted God. He exercised faith in God, went with his son to the top of the mountain, and there on the mountain God provided a ram as the sacrifice rather than the son. Wow! Would I have been willing to have done that or would I have rationalized it and chose to bury my faith rather than exercise it? 

Often God asks us to do the impossible or the difficult. He often asks us to take action without us having a lot of advanced details. Why? He wants to grow our faith. Our faith is on trial. What we do next shows in whom we truly trust! 

Sometimes God commands us to build a boat in a desert because he’s going to send a rain storm. We might not be able to see a cloud in the sky and the long-range forecast may look dry, but God always has a plan! Just ask a guy by the name of Noah. We realize that Noah not only obeyed God, but he did so immediately. Everyone laughed at his faith. No one else would obey God, but Noah persevered. The result of his faith is that he and his family lived! When we exercise our faith in God it brings new life to our otherwise dry, desert lives!

So maybe today God is talking to you, calling you, commanding you, or convicting you about something. Maybe you do not have all the answers. Maybe, just maybe your feelings and emotions are conflicted. When this happens, it is a trial. Your faith is on trial. Will you trust God or trust yourself? The issue is your faith! What will you choose?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sharing Life's Burdens

Do you know that many of the burdens we face in our lives should not be faced alone? Many of life's burdens were meant to be shared! 
At any given time we are surrounded by people on every side attempting to carry around life's burdens. For many, this burden can be a heavy load of grief, sorrow, disappointment, failure, or sin. Often times we may not even know who that person is around us or even the things they are facing in their lives that cause such sorrow, hurt or grief. Here is what I know to be 100% fact: Tragedy, sorrow, disappointment, depression, and grief will eventually visit the house of every person. 

Let me ask you two questions: Whom have you comforted recently? Who has comforted you? These questions are of vital importance in the work of the Kingdom of God in and through the lives of Christian people.  

Why does God allow sorrow and life's burdens to come into our lives? Well for one thing we live in a fallen, sinful world. This fallen state of our world negatively affects ALL people, both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore, no one is immune from life's burdens. Secondly, the reason God allows sorrows to come to us is so we can be comforted by Him, and then in turn, comfort others in need. Our experience with life's burdens can actually make us stronger in character and in our faith. Our experience can also be shared with others to be a blessing in the midst of their burdens.

Paul teaches us this truth in 2 Corinthians 1:4, when he says, He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” You must understand that we all face days of tragedy, disappointments, sorry, grief, and heartache. We must also understand that each of these experiences are different and unique. 

As a pastor, I do all I can to minister to and meet the needs of the members of my church and community, but often times there are situations that I am in where I am simply inadequate to fully meet needs or do effective ministry. Do you know why I am so inadequate? It is because I may have not personally gone through the experience another person is facing.

Time to get really practical: Because we all face this same inadequacy, we as Christian people should not ever be found wallowing in self-pity and allow our tragedies, sorrows, and burdens to be wasted. God wants ALL of us to stop wasting the experiences of our lives. He was us to use them for good in others. Many of you have been through things that uniquely qualify you to help others I cannot help!

Think about it this way...who better can minister to a person going through a divorce than a Godly Christian person who has already gone through the experience of divorce and has come out on the other side healed and serving God? Who can better help a couple who cannot have a child than a couple who has already been through the trials of not having a child? Who can better walk through the difficulties of having a parent battling Alzheimer’s than a person who has had a parent who has battled Alzheimer’s? Why not get involved in doing ministry to those who need today? Why not stop wasting the experiences of your own life where God has proven Himself faithful to you? Why not take the lessons you have learned firsthand and share those with people who need to know how to deal with real life burdens? 
Do you see my point? We are to share one anothers burdens. We are to walk with one another through life’s burdens with patience, understand, and love. Church...Christian friends, let’s be intentional about this! Make it a priority to lift a burden with a kind word or note today. Pray with someone. Make a visit to them and show them love. Take the negative experiences of your life where God proved faithful and beat Satan to death with them by ministering to others. Why? Because some burdens are meant to be shared.