A Killer Message!

I have been preaching God’s Word for over twenty years. I have preached all over the United States, Brazil, and London. I’ve preached messages that were meant to challenge, change, and convict those listening. Sometimes I have been soft-spoken, while other times I just cleared a spot and pitched a fit (that’s preacher talk for “I got loud!”). I try not to plan how I am going to preach, but I spend a great deal of time on what I am going to say. I want to make sure the message God has laid on my heart is what comes out of my mouth.  There is nothing worse than spending several hours preparing and then laying an egg on Sunday. My greatest desire is to be obedient to the task.

In Acts 6.8-7:60, we can read a killer sermon by Stephen, one of the first deacons.  I say “killer sermon” because after he had finished preaching, those listening took him outside and stoned him to death. They didn’t kill him because he was an inexperienced preacher, was too boring, didn’t use enough illustrations, or spoke too long. Nope, they killed him because he was right! Everything Stephen said was 100% correct, and they didn’t like it–so they literally killed the messenger!

This Sunday as we take a closer look at Stephen’s message, we will examine what he said, what caused such a reaction, and how this applies to us today.

I hope to see you at 10:45 a.m. this Sunday morning at Living Oaks Baptist Church.

At Peace With God’s Pace

Graceway MediaThis morning I would like to introduce you to Steve Roll, founder of Restoration Ministries. Steve is a godly man who longs to see others enjoy the healthy spiritual life God has planned for them. He has committed his life to be a helping hand and word of encouragement to those who are hurting.

I believe his insightful post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will give you simple advice on how to enjoy the life you’ve been given. Personally, I want to go through life at a pace which allows me to enjoy living. I don’t want to live at a frenetic pace feeling like a contestant on “The Amazing Race” going to different places but never having time to enjoy them.  God’s pace will always allow us time to smell the roses.

I pray Steve’s post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will bring you hope of enjoying life and not just rushing through it!

“The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace because he trusts in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3
 “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23

“Are we there yet?” Like kids on a vacation trip trapped in the backseat of the car—we are an impatient people. Rather than enjoy the journey, we clamor to arrive at our destination. And we want to be there NOW!

Everyone is in such a hurry today. You and I run here and there, and there and here, like chickens with our heads cut off.  We have been duped into thinking that the fast lane of the rat race is where it’s at. Who says we have to run the rat race? I guess the rats do! So many people labor and live at a breakneck, feverish pace in order to keep up with the Joneses. If I read my Bible right, Christians are to keep up with Jesus, not the Jones. 

When you study the life of Christ, you find that He paced Himself during His three year ministry. His steps were established (ordered, directed, laid out) by the Father. You never see Jesus stressed out. The Lord never put pressure on Himself to perform or be successful. In the midst of intense opposition and adversity, Jesus experienced the peace of God. Why? Because I believe He was at peace with God’s pace on the way to the cross and resurrection.  

Someone said hurry is often the long way around in life. Hurry, scurry, and worry keep many people frustrated. Many people lack inner peace in their lives because they don’t pace themselves. No wonder we have so many stressed out, burned out, freaked out people in our society. 

I have always been a high energy person. At times, high gear has been my Achilles heel. As a young boy, I remember watching my first long distance track race. The starter’s gun sounded, the runners took off.  I was so disappointed that the runners weren’t sprinting and running in highest gear. The race was 5,000 meters. The distance runners knew something I didn’t. 

They understood the principle of PACE. To complete the race, they had to pace themselves over the distance. They couldn’t possibly run the whole course full throttle. They would run out of gas before the finish line if they ran full blast.
As Christians, we are running a faith race (Hebrews 12:1-3). The Lord’s will is for us to finish our faith race victoriously (II Timothy 4:7-8). It’s to our benefit that we run our race at His pace. If we run ahead of God, we will burnout. If we run behind God, we rust out. But if we run with God, hand in hand with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit, we WIN OUT!

God is a god of peace and pace. He is never in a hurry, He never worries, and He is never late or ahead of schedule. He is perfectly on time, all the time. His secret: a planned, purposeful, peaceful, productive PACE. God’s universe and Kingdom is one of peace when His creatures live life at His pace. A restful, productive pace that energizes us is God’s way.  

Isaiah makes it crystal clear: Perfect peace is ours when we steadfastly focus on the Lord and trust Him to quicken the pace or slow it down. Note it is God’s perfect peace that the trusting person will receive. God’s perfect, complete, whole, fulfilling, satisfying peace is something we cannot produce ourselves.  Our Heavenly Father is the god of peace who gives peace to His children. 

I don’t know about you, but most of the time my problem with pace is not going too slow, but going too fast. Through the school of hard knocks, my hard head is learning that God loves me so much He will find a way to slow me down when necessary!
If we desire to be healthy, peaceful, and productive, we must come to terms with being at peace with God’s pace. If you are out of sync with God’s pace, fall on your face before Him. Confess your impatience. Repent of your dysfunctional desire to control outcomes and have things your way in your time. 

Slow down long enough to receive God’s peace. As you fix your mind on Him, His perfect peace will flood your heart. Trust Him to direct your steps and to show you the proper pace to run your race. 

You and I are off and running into God’s plan for us in 2012. Great opportunities lie ahead for us to glorify God. Peace with His pace will produce less stress and more success in our lives. So let’s commit ourselves to run our race at His pace this year.

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:15
“Great peace have those who love God’s law; nothing shall cause them to stumble.” Psalm 119:165

A Word For Your Week:  Christian winners run their race at God’s pace.

The Perfect Investment

Graceway MediaI remember a few years ago when the stock market crashed.  Regardless of how much power, prestige, or prominence you possessed, it wasn’t going to help protect your investments. Each month I would get a statement showing what was happening with the small nest egg I had been putting back for my retirement.  It is not a lot of money, but it is my money, which I would like to see grow and not disappear. Everyone I talked to told me that I could move it into different accounts that would prevent or minimize the losses; however, they also warned that when the market rebounded the initial jump would get me the biggest gains on my investments, and that waiting it out would be best. As most of you remember, those where difficult months to just lose years of savings.

I have a great desire to be a good steward of all God has entrusted to me.  I want to take care of and properly use all that I have.  I want to make wise investments now that enable me to help others after I retire in ways which are not possible today. In order to do that, I have to be disciplined to dream of the future and not just live for today’s pleasures.

I think this principle was instilled in me way back in Sunday School. I still remember Jesus’ saying in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (ESV).

“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” is a concept most people struggle with.  We want our best life NOW! We want a new car and a bigger house every couple of years. We want fancier toys (boats, camper, Jet Ski, golf clubs, guns, video games, electronic devices, etc.) to play with. We even want an annual raise so we can get more toys, but if we don’t get the raise we can always count on VISA, MasterCard, Discover Card, or American Express to get us our wants. We have a strong desire to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, right?

There are many problems with this mentality, but the biggest is we only have a few years to enjoy these toys. Our life is but a vapor. We have maybe seventy years to enjoy these things, and we definitely can’t take them with us. How many times have you seen a hearse on the way to the cemetery with a U-Haul trailer in tow? The treasures of this life have to be protected, repaired, maintained, and insured. We worry about whether they will last, be stolen, break, or even fulfill our desire for fun.

This should make Jesus’ statement to store up treasure in heaven where they last for eternity much more desirable. You see, we may not be able to take our stuff with us, but we can send it on ahead! We can make investments that will last beyond time and throughout eternity. Personally, I have found that investing my God-given gifts according to His commands have resulted in greater joy than any material possession I could have purchased. I have seen families blessed with a car to get to work, groceries to get through another week, a meal after the loss of another family member, and training for job. I know missionaries who are taken care of so they can share the gospel in other countries, I know of villages that have received chicks, ducks, goats, cattle, and even had a fresh water well dug for them.  All these things happened because a group of people decided to think about storing up treasure in heaven. What is their gift in this life? Joy! Unspeakable JOY! Joy in knowing a child will get a meal, joy in knowing that a family has a roof over their head, joy from watching a soul come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of things I could do with the money I give to the church each year, but none of them would bring me the eternal joy and satisfaction which I have found by investing in the treasures of heaven!

Power Outage!

I am a creature of habit. I like doing things the same way each week. I have certain tasks which have to be taken care of on specific days of the week. When something happens to my schedule, it just messes everything up. Usually when my schedule is messed up and I start getting frustrated, my wife starts calling out, “Monk!”

Last night at 11:30 p.m., I received a call from one of our deacons that the Fire Department had to make a trip to the church.  The high winds blowing through Tulsa had caused a couple of electric lines to touch and knock out our electricity.  The deacon had taken care of all the necessary procedures so I didn’t have to get out of bed, drive up to the church, and do it myself. However, when I arrived at work this morning, there was still a power outage.

We called the electric company, and they were working to get power restored. They told us it would take about two hours to get it fixed. They were quick to get someone out on site, and they knew exactly what was needed to fix the problem.  You could not ask for a better response time.

The problem with having to wait—I NEED ELECTRICITY! Without electricity I can’t use the internet, telephone, or computer.  Without electricity I was unable to work on my latest blog until 2:30 p.m. this afternoon (usually I am a few days ahead, but I had a Deacons’ Retreat this weekend and was too busy). Without electricity we didn’t have heat in the building, light in the bathroom, or a place for me to study for next Sunday.  The bottom line—Electricity is key to my life.

Regardless of how inconvenient today has been because of the power outage, it is still a first-world problem. I still had a warm, dry house to live in. My Tempurpedic bed is much better than sleeping on a dirt floor.  I did have to fight through traffic to get to work, but I didn’t have to worry about a tiger attacking me on my way. My life, inconvenience and all, is really very easy. There are times when work is stressful, marriage is frustrating, parenting is maddening, and the cell phone that I could easily turn off just won’t stop ringing.  However, none of those things are life threatening. When I clock out tonight I will go home to a very comfortable life. I thank God for the many comforts He has seen fit to provide for me in this life.

Maybe, just maybe, you are like me. You may have times when you jump on board the Waa-mbulace, take a spin around the city griping, complaining, and whining about how difficult life is treating you to anyone who will listen. If so, I encourage you to take a good look at your life and ask yourself, “Is this just a first-world problem?” I am ashamed to say my pity party was just me wanting everything to go my way. Once I saw my childish attitude, it was easy to fix. I am still half a day behind and will probably have to work extra late; however, I have job, a church family, a home, food in the pantry, and a wife and son that love me.  Life is good!

John 3:16

It is hard for me to believe that this simple video upset so many people when it was televised during the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots’ football game. Personally, I think it is a great video, and I would suggest you copy the address, post it on your Facebook page, and email it to friends and family.  It is, after all, the only message that truly brings hope for all the world!