Cell Phone God

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I am studying the book of James, again using a study guide developed by Beth Moore. Reading, praying, and studying I became aware that my cell phone might be receiving too much attention. It might even become a little “god”. That evening I was driving home from a church meeting minding my own business and accidently set my cell phone in a partial cup of water. I discovered the accident after a few minutes afterward when I received a call.
The phone barely worked. I remembered placing your phone in rice would dry it out. It would take 48 hours to see if that would work. I would be removed from many people and demands during that time. I emailed family and let them know how to get in touch via email.
I found I missed my phone. I would catch myself wanting to check the news, FB, and email. I was in phone withdrawal. God said good, don’t let it be a god. I have the phone working again and am resolved not to let it be a God. I remember telling my youngest son that my phone was a work tool. It must work for the Lord not a distraction from the Lord.

Love One Another

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Jesus tells us John 13:34-35 to Love on Another. Loving one another encompasses many emotions and thoughts. I find that as a believer I am challenged to truly love those who think and act differently than I. One reason people give for not attending church is that Christians don’t act like the lost world thinks Jesus acted. Personally I find this to be true at times. If we believe God is love. If we believe that we are being transformed into the image of Jesus who as God’s son is love. Then I should be in process of becoming LOVE. HMMM am I becoming love? Love is both an action and an attitude. My attitude is a reflection of who owns my heart.
I believe I can love my brother through a tense discussion on church finance, color of carpet, and methodologies of the church. I also have become convicted that I must like and love my brother at the same time. I had fallen into the habit of saying I love him but don’t like him. Then God seemed to speak to me one day (not audibly) saying I was lying to myself. I must love and like at the same time. Self- Honesty may be harder than any other type of honesty.
Take the Love Challenge and become love.
Have a good day with Jesus
joe

Walk the Taming the Tongue

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A few years ago I sat at a sixth grade basketball tournament minding my own business and watching the game. The game was very lopsided from the beginning and I felt sorry for the other team. Early in the first quarter a parent sitting behind me began to criticize the referee’s job performance. The longer the game went the louder the parent became. The official would look over and I thought would glare at me. Early in the second quarter the parent became even louder and ruder. The referee stopped the game and looked in my direction and said this is the first and only warning. Be quiet or you are out of here. I responded me? The ref said no the guy behind you. At which point the parent behind me swore at the ref and was immediately asked to leave. I was relieved I wasn’t kicked out of the game yet there are many times I have misused my tongue. Some who know me best will tell you I can have a very sharp tongue at times. You may want to check with Joy, Christy, Becky, Tim, or Josh. My sons and daughter in laws will tell you I passed the sharp tongue onto my children. I would protest if it weren’t true.
James 3:1-12 tells us the many challenges of using our words and controlling our emotions as they come out of our mouth. James says the tongue is small yet boasts great things. One of my children I could and did spank and they would rarely cry. Another of my children I could speak to a little sternly and they would burst into tears. The tongue holds great power for both good and evil. James contrasts the tongue with springs of water that spew forth both salt water and good water. The tongue does the same in our lives. We can praise people, those who live in our home or who we work with, and that is good. Yet out of the same mouth can flow vile criticisms which hurt and damage relationships. I find in the lives of our pastors and churches we spend a great deal of time making peace and attempting to heal the hurts that have been inflicted by unkind words. Some try to mask the hurt of their words by saying “just joking”. Hurtful words aren’t a joke and God holds us accountable for what we say.
James is in my face as he pens the words about the tongue. I have sat through countless business meetings at church as people have used words to elevate themselves at the expense of others in the church family. I am reminded of the words penned by John in I John 4: 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. John pointedly tells you and me that if we malign the character, hate our brother then we may not be a part of God’s family.
Criticism and complaining fall into the category of how we use our tongue. A pastor shared with me that he really didn’t like most of the constructive criticism he received because it was given in a very destructive way.
The hurtfulness of the tongue is rampant in our society. Scripture teaches and addresses the use of our tongues and language including backbiting, gossip, lying, and unwholesome talk. As a leader I do my share of things I need some constructive criticism about. Sometimes I don’t like to hear it but it is true. There are many times as a pastor leader, your pastor may need an encouraging word rather than criticism. If baseball is our national pastime then criticism has become our second national pastime. I am hopeful that we can overcome the sharpness of our tongues as believers and live a transformed life through the way we use our words.
Jesus came to transform us into His image as believers. We are to be in the world not of the world. The difference Jesus makes in my life and your life is one that is reflected in our everyday life. We are not called to be Christ following SMO (SUNDAY MORNING ONLY). Christ calls us to live out loud our faith and transformation into his image every day. My prayer is that each of us will work the talk with the words we use and the way we treat others.

Walk the Talk With Humility

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Proud or Humble was the heading in the Bible beginning James 4. It jumped off the page at me as a question rather than a statement. It provoked a quick attitude check for me. James 4:1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?[a] James tells us in this verse and those following that our selfish attitudes often create strife and hardships. Some translations use the words wars among you and selfish desires. The harshness of the writing of James highlights the unchristian way I can behave when my selfish nature takes control. Selfishness may well be the root of many of the conflicts that surround you and me. James continues writing through chapter 4 about the inner struggle of selfishness.
I watched some kids playing at the park last fall. They were ages 1-4. There were sand toys they had brought, swings to play on and several other structures to climb, slide, and run around on. The one and two year olds had a way of making their wishes known to the older children. The youngest girl particularly made her desires known. She went up to the oldest child who was building a sand sculpture and knocked it over. He protested then walked away. He started up the slide and she tried to get ahead of him. When he wouldn’t let he she cried, well actually she wailed loudly. This went on for awhile. She was determined to get her own way. I came to be live she would be miserable if left to play by herself. I never saw her play with anything or on her own. Her mission was to interrupt the fun and play of the others. Sometimes as adult we may revert to childish methods, not for the greater good but for selfish motives.
I enjoy children. I find them painfully honest most of the time. Refreshing in forgiveness and light hearted. I can also see how our behavior of selfishness comes out in the birth to 2. I heard one mom describe her baby as a parasite who sucked the life out of her. If the baby wasn’t nursing she was demanding to be held. In the middle of the night the baby seemed to need the presence of mom just to know mom was near. The behavior of a baby is very selfish. It is all about the baby. We play along with that thought with the first born in most families. The child is cuddled and coddled, fed and changed on demand. The second child comes along and is usually not as pampered. They may wait to be fed and changed, or not coddled as much. The pacifier is rarely sterilized yet wiped clean on pants or shirt of the parent. While humorous it is true. We soon learn the difference between the selfishness of the baby and real need of the baby.
The cause of most fights in the home, church, school, and work place are a matter of selfishness. Jesus has a simple cure for selfishness and that is to grow up in the nature of Christ and become the servant of all. Philippians 2: 5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, the verses following get specific in how to have an attitude like Jesus. Paul tells us in chapter2 to stop being selfish. Be humble like Jesus who became a slave to his heavenly Father and went to the cross. His death was an act of being unselfish. We must adjust our attitude to become like Jesus. Jesus also said in the gospels he came to be the servant of all and a ransom for many, Mark 10:45. Jesus lived and led by example. He defended himself verbally with the religious leaders of the day not compromising his values. He had no trouble healing on the Sabbath or forgiving the adulteress. When it was time for ultimate obedience and sacrifice on the cross he went willingly. Why? He was a servant. Servanthood isn’t for wimps. Servant hood is for those who live with confidence in their relationship with Christ the Lord.
James tells us in chapter 4 that we choose to create conflict with our selfish desires. Should the purpose be for the greater good then the Lord will put that purpose on the heart of others. The question still remains: Proud or Humble? May the Lord find us humble and willing to follow him in all of our ways.

Walk The Talk

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James 4:7 7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Over the past two months I have been able to sit and listen to some of our leaders as they shared their stories. The conference entitled “Success Stories of Rehoboth” provided them an opportunity to share. The conference was planned and conducted by the Church Strengthening Team of Rehoboth taking place at FBC Brownstown and Smithgrove Baptist church in September and October. I listened to the conference leaders: Bruce Sasee, Jay Huddleston, Bob Eval, Tommy Chapman, and Robin Hayes as they shared their stories of God doing great things in their churches and in their lives. I was reminded that people had influenced the lives of these folks to walk the talk in their lives. They were motivated as they saw the needs of people around them.
He has called the five people mentioned earlier in this article to work with the people he created here on earth. Bruce and Jay love people deeply. They see those not in the church with great compassion and reach out to them. They lead their church to reach out to them. Robin sees women with great compassion. God has led her to touch the wives of women in a variety of ways. Some of the ways extend beyond the church walls. Tommy sees people through God’s eyes and wants them experience the relationship with God and God’s people that is rich and full. Bob sees the potential of sharing Christ with folks who come for physical food and in addition get spiritual food. Each of these folks serve in a church just like yours. The churches range in size from 15-150. They are in open country, small villages and just outside of town. God isn’t concerned about the location of your church. He is concerned about your availability to serve him.
Their service started as they became personally challenged by the Lord through Bible Study. It seems they were each challenged to do something bigger than themselves with God. They submitted to God just as James instructed in James 4:7. The first 6 verses of chapter 4 speak of our battle with pride and humility. James points out that many problems in the church come from our pride and desire to make ourselves better known. James says we lie and covet to feel better about ourselves. The problem James says is the importance of “I”. I am more important than anyone. In previous chapters James tells us not to play favorites and treat all equally. We walk the talk by following God not the ways of man. Following God is not comfortable. It makes us rely upon him. Each person who serves God in ways that is bigger than them is submitting to God and following Him. When I submit to God I resist the devil. The devil tells me I can’t do things for the Lord. I am inadequate, unskilled, and insecure. The devil loves to get in the middle of our lives and tell us that we can’t, I can’t, or you can’t.
I can still remember my first pastoral visit to Barnes hospital in the mid 1980’s. The patient was Bob Powers. He was in intensive care awaiting open heart surgery. I couldn’t pick Bob out of any crowd. I was asked by my pastor at that time to go and pray with Bob before his 7am surgery. I had no trouble getting up early and getting down there. I encountered a totally foreign place with huge lobby’s and locked doors in ICU and no admittance signs. I had nothing on me to prove I was a pastor and needed to see Bob. I just kept walking forward telling the folks in charge what I wanted and eventually stood at Bob’s bedside. Our visit was brief and pleasant. It started a several year friendship. It taught me the value of following God in an area that was way out of my comfort zone. I was challenged to walk the talk by caring. God called the introvert pig farmer to work with people. We walk the talk by submitting to God.
Olen Evans is the leader of the Church Strengthening Team. Olen has served Brownstown Church faithfully almost 30 years. He has served by submitting to God. God asks every believer to serve him in some way. We can’t feel that we are too good for any job. We must fill our role in the kingdom to the best of our gifts and abilities. I am reminded that as God calls us to serve He equips us to serve. I don’t have to be the best and brightest (I can hear the laughter now). I just have to be faithful.
If God has called you to preach, submit and preach. If God has called you to teach third graders the Bible then teach. Should God call you to change diapers of babies, be the best diaper changer ever as you sing Jesus Loves Me to your little blessing.
When you submit to God and walk the talk with Jesus the devil always flees. Have a great time serving the Lord with Gladness.