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Archive for September, 2008

The Temple Is Not For You

Every day across the third planet in relation to the sun Christians spend countless hours in front of the mirror, in the gym, and shopping for clothes for their body.  Problem?  Our bodies are not for us.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t look in the mirror prior to leaving the house.  I was once at my mother-in-law’s house in Guntersville, AL on a Saturday morning listening to the endless number of things she had done since waking the rooster that morning (she actually does live on a farm), when I interrupted her saying, “Well, I know one thing you haven’t done today and that’s look in the mirror.”  Anyone who knows me well, can testify that prior to becoming sick with CFS, I was in top shape physically.  Even now I do as much as I can for my health through fitness, and surely you know I have keen fashion sense.  Just this past week my wife tried to get me to wear a yellow shirt to work.  As if!!  We are almost in October sister! Summer has come and gone.  My point is simply that we can spend large amounts of time working on our Temple, but who is it really for and what about the inner parts of our being?  God tells the High Priest Samuel when he has sent him to anoint the next king of Isreael the following,  “6When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.”  7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:6-8).  Christian men and women everyday do things for the betterment of their physical being.  Not a bad thing at all.  But why, or better yet what is your motive?  Do you exercise so you can feel good in front of the mirror as you jet off to an evening dinner in those designer jeans you just had to have?  God made it clear to Samuel that He looks at the heart of a man.  God is not impressed with that new top you just bought, or is he impressed with my four marathon finishes.  He spoke the cosmos into existence and sustains it still.  He is not easily impressed.  He walked the hill to Calvary, and that makes a marathon seem pretty light and insignificant.  When God gave David instructions to build His temple, the structure, non-moving dwelling place for the Lord’s Spirit (not a final one though).  God also revealed to David that this temple was not primarily for him or any other man or woman.  I Chronicles 29:1   1 Then King David said to the whole assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the LORD God.”  The New Testament teaches that the true Temple of God thanks to Jesus Christ rests inside of his beloved saints.  19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (I Corinthians 6:19-20).  The Christian body is the permanent dwelling place for the temple of God while we live as aliens and strangers away from our heavenly home.  Honestly, seriously, how much time are you and I spending on our godly character and sin problems in comparison with our exterior, which is really just a shell.  I am who I am, because God changed my life and my heart through Christ on the inside.  My flesh is only the entrance to me, a door to the inner parts of my being.  When you consider that our bodies belong to God (Psalm 24:1), and they are the temple for the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16), does that change your motivation for working out, the way you dress, and what you see in the mirror?

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What Do You Pray For?

In reading through the Old Testament, I have been shown many great truths about God.  I have been able to see countless times Jesus Christ pictured, symbolized, and pointed to by the OT writers.  Today, as I  was reading in 1Kings, a familiar story spoke to my heart.  David had just passed on to the earth, and Solomon was the new king over Israel and Judah.  During the night while in a dream, the Lord God told him he could have whatever he asked for.  Solomon replied to the Lord by stating that he himself felt overwhelmed ruling over such a vast number of people.  The king referred to himself as a “child.”  He asked the Lord for a discerning heart, so that he might rule the people justly.  The Lord respond by granting him his request for wisdom and stating that since he asked for wisdom instead of long life or health and wealth, he would be granted those as well.  It is ironic that today to turn on your tv to any religious channel, you are far more likely to see someone preaching or praying for the prosperity of wealth and health than wisdom.  It is amazing what passes for preaching these days.  The Bible values wisdom far higher than any monetary gain, social stature, or long life.  The wisdom of God in Jesus Christ is more priceless than any stone or jewel the belly of the earth could provide.  The wisdom of Jesus Christ is wiser than that of Solomon because in Chist we have the revealed mystery of God, which is the kingdom of Christ Jesus.  I consider wisdom far more profitable than to pray for health, money, and success in the business world.  One could obtain all these things and still not have anything of true value.  People are on all kinds of crusades these day including healing, debt free living, and sowing seed for a financial harvest.  When is the last time you saw a wisdom crusade tent meeting where the preacher just preached the Bible and prayed that the wisdom contained there within would penetrate and change hearts to that of Christ?  That’s it.  It’s just preaching the Word of God to the people of God about his greatness in the Lord Jesus.   Wouldn’t that be a crusade worth talking about.  A place where wisdom and discernment trump healthy living, financial success, and the many friends who love you while you’re healthy and have money.  King Solomon prayed for wisdom.  We would be wise if we dropped a few of our own prayer add-ons and prayed like the great king of old.  Imagine how much more the gospel could be shared if we asked God for wisdom in sharing and understanding, instead of praying for the gospel to be something other than what it is.  The wisdom of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we die to ourselves and our own plans for success to give way to Chris and His path to wisdom and to Himself.  So in the end, I ask myself, “Would I rather pray for more money and better health, or more of Jesus and his wisdom in my life?”  Well, if you want to side with scripture, then to pray for more of Christ is your best bet.  If you don’t want to side with scripture, and you choose the health and wealth stuff, your friends who choose wisdom and Christ will come out looking wise, and you will find that in your life you have played the fool.  Now where’s the wisdom in that?

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Why worship is much more about corporate unity than personal experience.

 

      

 

 

 

     

 

 Matthew 16:13-20

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

 14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

 15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ,[b] the Son of the living God.”

 17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter,[c] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[d] will not overcome it.[e] 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[f] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[g] loosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

 

            True Biblical corporate worship is about the people of God coming together to give due praise and honor to the king of the cosmos, Jesus Christ.  So much in our day has been made of worship as it pertains to the corporate, public setting of the local church.  Most of those discussions, debates concerning worship center around music style, which is essentially nothing more than music preference.  I want to discuss something far more important than style of music.  I want to talk about why we worship together.  Why we gather together on Sundays and Wednesdays.   This is not a word on personal worship as it pertains to the individual and his/her lifestyle.  In essence personal worship and devotion to God is one’s life; not just parts of it, but rather your whole life.  This is a commentary on one of the greatest things we get to do together as Christians, but chiefly about Christ.

            I once talked with some people who attended a worship conference, and a statement made by the individual leading the conference seemed to profoundly impact my friends.  The leader stated, “Worship is like going on vacation with God.”  This quote was made in reference to the gathering together in a corporate setting and the issue of worship though music and singing.  What the worship leader was trying to say was essentially that even though you are in a room with a bunch of other people you just need to focus on God and your relationship with Him.  I have thought long and hard about that quote and the theology behind it.  Here is what I think. I don’t like it at all!

             This idea of “getting alone with God” seems right.  After all, we should focus on lifting up the name of Jesus Christ during our time of singing and corporate worship.  I understand what this individual is saying.  I just can’t agree with him on the basis of scripture.  The problem I have with this idea of “getting alone” in a corporate setting is that we are coming together to be together not to isolate ourselves.  Corporate worship within the context of the local church body is one of the most theological acts we as a family do, and it’s all because we are uniting together under one head, Jesus Christ.  So, what is wrong with the “getting alone” mentality?  Well, my main concern and problem with it is that it promotes and exalts the personal experience of the individual in the corporate worship setting.  God did not save us to be individuals.  He saved us through Christ to the church.  Furthermore, Christ did not die for the individual, He died for the church (all those who bend the knee to him and receive him as savior and Lord).  Paul writing to the church at Ephesus speaking to the issue of marriage while comparing it to Christ’s love for the church said this,  

 

22(AV)Wives, (AW)be subject to your own husbands, (AX)as to the Lord.  

23For (AY)the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the (AZ)head of the church, He Himself (BA)being the Savior of the body.

 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

 25(BB)Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and (BC)gave Himself up for her,

 26(BD)so that He might sanctify her, having (BE)cleansed her by the (BF)washing of water with (BG)the word,

 27that He might (BH)present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be (BI)holy and blameless.

 28So husbands ought also to (BJ)love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

 30because we are (BK)members of His (BL)body. Ephesians 5:22-30 NASB with emphasis added.

Christ died for his beloved church.  We must see ourselves not primarily as redeemed individuals, but rather as individuals that have been redeemed and saved to the church (and by this church I mean the universal church).

            Scripture is all about unity.  If you look back at the O.T. even in the garden, God saw that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:20-25).  God called out for himself a nation of people out of slavery in Egypt and into a land of promise (Exodus 6:6-8). God saved the Israelites as a nation. I realize that some who traveled with the group were not true followers. Just like there are many who attend our churches who are not believers.  The point is that through out redemptive history the salvation of the Lord has been corporate.  Yes, he saves us all on an individual basis.  We all must express explicit faith in Jesus Christ and repent of our own sins in order to be saved.  Yet, we are not left to our own.  We are saved to be a member the Church of Jesus Christ (not the denomination) and serve and worship Him in the context of the local body of believers.  We as part of the universal church are one body with many members (Romans 12:3-5).

            What I love about corporate worship are the songs that lift up and exalt the name of our great God.  I love sitting beside my wife and those that I know and joining with them to sing about the matchless grace of Jesus Christ.  I love the elderly man sitting on the second row that just buried his wife of 55 years and is using all the strength his frail body has left to raise his right hand to sing about the one he so desperately longs to see face to face.  I love watching the little boy look intently into his daddy’s face as his dad sings about Jesus’ love for him.  I love declaring with all the people gathered together in song that Jesus is Lord over the cosmos and our hearts as well.  I love observing the people of God together worshiping the True and Living God.  I truly derive as much pleasure watching others worship God as I do worshiping Him myself through song.

            So what if I have the greatest “worship experience” of my life on a particular Sunday, there may be a lady sitting in the row behind me whose son is deep in sin and rebellion, and she has prayed and cried to the point she is physically weak and spent.  Am I to walk away from that experience boasting of the “great vacation” I just had with God?  Are we not supposed to carry each others burdens (Galatians 6:2-3)?  The beautiful part about the local church body singing and worshiping together is they don’t go on vacation alone.  Instead, They don’t go on vacation at all.  They bunker down in the trenches with their brethren and unite both with those who rejoice and with those who mourn.             

                The truth is friend that we need each other, and we are better together.  I am just as happy for you in your salvation in the Lord as I am my own.  We have been saved to praise God together.  How much more beautiful is a room full of voices singing “O how I love Jesus” than one person alone (and I have heard some of you sing, and let me say thank God for the choir)!  I agree we need to be focused on Christ during the time we devote to singing corporately, but no one in the Bible ever spoke against rejoicing in your brothers and sisters worshiping God.  In fact God made some of us ADD or ADHD if you prefer (this is not meant to be a joke I have actually been diagnosed with ADD).  Some of us can’t help but look around and admire the way others are worshiping and wonder why some are crying and amazed at others who look like this corporate gathering is the last place on earth they wish to be. Worship is less about the individual, even less about the style of music, but chiefly about you and me and everyone else of every color and background coming together to answer with full confidence the question Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew chapter 16, “But what about you?  Who do you say I am?”  And together with voices raised we say “Jesus we love you.  We worship and adore you, glorify your name in all the earth.”  This friend is no vacation.  This is called corporate worship, and when we join together with one voice united under Jesus Christ, we are declaring war on the powers and rulers of this age.  We are declaring victory in the name of Jesus Christ.  If we are going to go to war, we better go together.       

            Note:  I realize there is much more to corporate worship than just singing.  I believe the preaching of the Word is to be primary and central in our corporate gatherings.  These thoughts were meant to address the issue of singing in corporate worship.

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RIP Uncle Gary

At the moment I write this, word has just come to me that my dearest and closest uncle, Gary J. Bone, has died suddenly from a heart attack.  My mother called at about the nine’o clock hour and told me that he had been rushed to the hospital and was at that point unresponsive.  Tenly and I immediately began to pray for his life.  We also prayed for the will of the Lord, no matter the outcome.  Shortly there after I received word from my father that my uncle had passed.  The peace that followed was nothing like I have ever experienced before.  It was as though the divine hand of God was resting upon me.  I was able to find rest and comfort there beneath His holy hand.  I found comfort, because I know from many conversations and experiences that my favorite uncle was a Christian.  He told me so, and I know it.  I have never met a man who was more generous and giving than he.  I never met a man outside of my father that cared so much for me.  He was without a doubt the funniest man I ever met, and he is undisputed the best story teller you would have ever met.  He leaves behind two children (Kelly and Joseph) and two grandchildren (Jackson and Grace Ann).   He will be cherished fondly by many family and friends.  He was a person I wish everyone could have known. Your life would have been richer for it.  For the record, nothing I have said about him is exagearated.  He was everything and more than I have described him to be.  He leaves a good legacy to all who knew and loved him.  He will be missed, but even more, he will be remembered.  At this very moment, he just joined a Holy party where he is the beloved bride of his magnificent savior.  I love you Uncle Gary.  You are more special to me than I can express.  I can’t wait to see you again!   Your Favorite Nephew, Taylor

Ephesians 3:20, But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

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Are You Seeing The Signs?

The Signs are everywhere.  Seems like everybodys got one.  What are they?  Christian faith expressions in the form of bumper stickers, gold and silver chains, tattoos, and car magnets.  More and more people are putting their beliefs and ideals out there concerning their faith.  Is this bad?  I would say absolutely not.  It’s great that we live in a land that allows for such testaments.  People have a constitutional right in the USA to express themselves religiously and otherwise as long as they abide by governing laws.  Are these signs of faith good, though?  That is the question I would like to address.  They are good I suppose in the fact that they can perhaps tell us a bit about the person driving the car or walking down the street.  However, I think they fall drastically short in one important area.  They can save no one.  No soul will be saved by noticing a car magnet in the form of a fish on an automobile.  Not one person will come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in an after game interview in which a prominent sports athlete has a gold cross draped around his neck.  Sorry Mr. T, this includes you too.  How am I able to make such a claim, because the apostle Paul said it first in the book of Romans.  Romans 10:13-15,17 Paul the apostle writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,  14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Paul is writing about the nation of Israel, and the fact that many were unbelieving throughout redemptive history in spite of having the benefit of the Lord’s message brought to their doorstep.  The principle is the same for us too, though.  We must hear the message in order to receive it.  Here in lies my primary concern with people who use signs as expressions of their devotion to their Savior.  Symbols are not enough.  The preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ must be shared.  Proclamation must be made in order for souls to be saved.  Don’t think for a moment that your car magnet is your only/primary means of evangelism.  It is only a start at best.  Evangelism is done through the proclamation of those born again in the Lord Jesus Christ and his message of grace and love.  Evangelism also means training those up that receive the good news of Jesus, so that they are able to share the message with others.  This message has been revealed through the Word of God, and should be spoken by all believers.  So whether you have a fish on your car or a tat on your arm, just remember no ones life will be saved from eternal condemnation on the sole basis of your expression.  It needs to be seen as a way or opportunity to share the hope that is in you, because like Phillip who encountered the Ethopian Eunuch with questions about what he was reading, you too need to be ready to answer for your faith(Acts 8:26-36).  Just remember signs and symbols are just that, signs and symbols.  Only the Word of God and the preaching of it are sufficient for the salvation of the lost.  The Great Commission was never meant to be fulfilled through your gold chain, but by you sharing a story about a GOD/Man who loved sinners enough to die for them (John 3:16).

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This past Saturday I found myself in a strange and different world.  I found myself at a pee-wee (or pop Warner or midget if you prefer) football game.  I had not attended one of these games in probably close to 16-17 years.  I was there to support one of my nephews as his team would do battle on the gridiron with their opponent.  I really didn’t know what to expect upon arriving at the game.  All I was thinking about was making sure my one month old daughter stayed cool and out of the sun.  When I got there, I immediately felt as though I had suddenly boarded a space and time travel machine to a foreign land filled with the most supportive/obnoxious(depends on who you ask) fans of pee-wee football I had ever seen.  I was in shock from the moment I arrived and one little boy from my nephew’s team almost scored on a touchdown run.  The crowed went crazy.  One coach was throwing his hat as another was pacing the sidelines trying to figure out how to get the pigskin across the plain.  I  was overwhelmed with all that was going on around me.  There were moms with their kids’ names and numbers on the back of their shirts.  Those same moms were yelling like their voices were the key to the success of the team running the ole toss sweep for a TD.  There were fans that displayed great levels of irateness when a boy was tackled, and a face mask penalty was not called.  You might as well have slapped somebody’s momma.  The crowd, including the normally docile paw paws left there seats in protest of the alleged injustice.    It reminded me of the time my good buddy Chuck Haddox invited me to speak at a winter retreat he was doing in Indiana just prior to Christmas 2005.  I’ll never forget getting on to a “big cheese” school bus and finding my seat.  As I sat there for a few moments, I thought to myself, is there anyway I can sneak out and leave.  I could suddenly start to not feel well.  What have I gotten myself into?  I was truly in a different world.  A world where 6th-7th-8th graders rule the bus by talking non stop in a voice loud enough to surely bring power to something.  I sank back down in my seat and again thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into?  Then last Saturday I found myself in a different, but similar place only this time it didn’t involve the 7-12 year olds or young teenagers.  No, it involved fully grown adults.  When we find ourselves in strange worlds and places like the last two I described, the tendency is to run, but don’t.  The wild animals posing as parents or middle schoolers may attack and maul you.  However, the best thing you can do is just sit quietly and observe their behavior.  If any approach you, don’t make eye contact and begin to speak fluent Spanish. They will not be ready for this and your very life may be spared.  Thinking back on that day and the interesting experience I had, here a few thoughts to share and a cup of Rosey Lee.  Passion can be a great thing, but ultimately the object of your passion will determine its true worth.  I was a bit saddened to see the passion that was being directed toward these little football players.  The teams’ players were treated like miniature gods.  The fans were worshiping their every run, pass, tackle, and score.  And all this for a game that very likely no one will be talking about a week or two from now.  I began to ask myself this question as I stood there, “What if these same people were to harness this passion they have for pee-wee football and put it into their spiritual lives as Christian soldiers marching onto a battle field daily.”  I asked my friend Dave Dice that question, and he responded by saying, “Well T, we would have a lot of people hearing the gospel.”  We laughed, but seriously that passion in the right place in a man/woman’s heart could do great things through proclaiming and discipeling individuals in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What about passion against poverty, abortion, child abuse, and ultimately our own daily personal injustices against a righteousness and holy God; who can not tolerate sin.  I find ball games like the one I attended a place where reality becomes lost and fantasy takes its place.  The fantasy is the kids are playing a game that really, really matters, and winning is the most important goal.  Reality is that this is just one game in the span of eternity; when and where the scores and statistic will be long forgotten.  The truth is this game was meant to be an opportunity for those in attendace and playing who call themselves Christians to act like Christians and be legacy of Christ Jesus sharing his message of salvation and repentance as we go.   That means also in the way in which we cheeer for our children and their teamates, very respectfully.  Can a Christian yell and cheer at a football game?  Yes sir, I do it every week.  But can those same Christians yell and cheer at a football game and during the next week show no passion for Christ in reaching the lost?  May it never be.  Here’s what I’m saying.  Cheer for your child and his/her team.  Just don’t leave all your passion on the football field, so that you don’t have any left for the mission field come Monday.

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”-Matthew 28:16-20

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