Deception crept into perfection, and the world has been staggering ever since. God provided the perfect setting for Adam and Eve, and the devil duped them. He masterminded the most destructive trick or treat that there ever has been. He has not lost his clever edge when it comes to dealing with us. He makes sin look good and God look unreasonable.
The truth of God was plain and simple. Do not eat or you will die. The setting was pristine. No environmental concerns or bad influences had yet intruded on that paradise on earth. It could not have been any better, and there was just one condition to keep it that way: Stay away from that tree. They stumbled, and the tumble has been underway to this day.
Ease and comfort are not always the best conditions for maintaining our spiritual equilibrium. God warned of the pitfalls of prosperity when the Israelites were still making their way through the wilderness (Deut. 8:11-20). Success has a way of dulling our sacred senses. A full stomach can lead to an insensitive heart. A nice house takes our attention off of that heavenly mansion. We forget how puny we are when we acquire a little worldly power. It is a dangerous thing to be too prosperous.
The church in Laodicea had fallen for the deception. They had more money than sense, and it was reflected in what they said and did. Their mediocrity turned the stomach of the Lord. A wave of nausea swept over Him when He considered them. Their big bank accounts produced a self-sufficiency that resulted in a sickening uselessness. Their arrogance said it all. They felt that they needed nothing (Revelation 3:17). Their blind eyes could not see the miserable condition in which they lived. Could our vision possibly be so distorted?
The expectations of God are not so complicated that we cannot understand them. Adam and Eve certainly did, and they chose to forsake them. It is always our choice. That serpent is still pushing his lies, but it is up to us whether to buy into them or not. The first couple did, and the consequences have never changed. Death will forever be the result. It is the devil’s deception that it is not so.
Conflict and controversy were the constant companions of Jesus. He was hardly dry from His baptism when the attack began (Matthew 3:16-4:11). If it was not a direct assault by the devil himself, they came from the world that He served. He entered into the human experience to search for and retrieve the lost (Luke 19:10). His great mission of love was met with criticism, rejection and ultimately a brutal execution. The road was a bumpy one on the way to the cross.
The Prince of Peace came and drove a wedge in the closest of relationships. He warned His apostles that the tension would even invade families (Matt. 10:34-36). The choice would be difficult. They might have to choose between their Lord and their parents. It could be between Jesus and their children. Conflict? Maybe. Controversy? Certainly. He demands first place in every heart. The losers are those who subordinate their loyalty to Him (Matt. 10:37-39).
Jesus cut a path right through the Jewish big shots. They sneered down their aristocratic noses at His associations with the wrong element (Luke 5:30). They were offended by the Great Physician making a house call. He brought the only prescription to cure the terminal illness, and they did not like it one bit that He took it directly to the patients. He touched lepers and talked to losers. What kind of Messiah was this?
He displayed Godness through remarkable acts of goodness, and the small-minded could not take it. It angered and frustrated them so much that they wanted Him dead. That sentiment escalated until there were hammers in hands. They fanned the flames of opposition all the way to the cross. Conflict and controversy followed Him all the days of His life, so that goodness and mercy could follow us all the days of ours. He saw to that.
Paul shared the conflict and controversy. His memoirs are painful just to read (2 Cor. 11:23-28). His commitment to the Lord cost him dearly (Phil. 3:8), but it was a transaction that he willingly made and for which he had no regrets. His God-given mission was accompanied by suffering through which he remained dedicated and faithful (2 Tim. 1:12). That is the way it is when you know the One who went through it first.
The world was in a mess of its own making. Evil was everywhere (Genesis 6:5). God examined their hearts and found it. It was not just in the shadows and on the back roads; it was there on Main Street in broad daylight. It was a time not unlike ours where corruption and bloodshed are far too common. In the midst of it all, the Lord found one nonconformist. Did He ever have a mission for him! God counted on that man.
Four centuries of bondage had worn the Israelites down. They had staggered under the load of slavery and begged for deliverance. The Lord heard their plea (Exodus 2:23-25) and acted. From a flaming shrub, He summoned an eighty-year-old man to action. He resisted. Uncertainty nagged at him as he debated with the Lord. Heaven knew what he did not. He was the right man for the task. His insecurities did not disqualify him for such a huge assignment. God counted on that man.
Jesus had endured the horror of crucifixion and the miracle of resurrection. All authority had been placed in His hands. The most important mission in history had to be accomplished. His band of disciples had hardly demonstrated themselves to be a dependable bunch, but He handed the job to them. Go everywhere and tell everybody (Mark 16:15). Leave no stone unturned. There are disciples to be made in every nation (Matthew 28:19). The Lord counted on those men.
There was an entire segment of the population that needed to be told. The messenger was the most unlikely candidate that we could imagine. Who would send a devout Jew to spread the word among the Gentiles? The Lord did. He was hand picked from all the people on earth. The very one who persecuted the church with such intensity became the most zealous missionary ever. The Lord counted on that man.
Now the Lord is counting on us. Each of us has a part to play in the plan of God for which we are uniquely qualified. No one on earth is quite like you. You bring a set of skills to the body of Christ that no one else has. The body grows when each part functions as only it can (Ephesians 4:16). You are important. You are vital. Noah was. Moses was. The apostles were. Paul was. So are you. The Lord is counting on you.
Three Who Knew
Chris Gallagher, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Not Just a Quick Fix
Sandy Smith, Scotland Neck, NC
More Than We Can Imagine
Rob Albright, Huntersville, NC
God Is Able, So Am I
Nelson Brockenborough, Statesville, NC
All Things Praise Thee
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
Because He Lives
How Great Thou Art
Draw Me Nearer
I’ve Got A Mansion
Sing To Me Of Heaven
Alas And Did My Savior Bleed
Song Service led by George Stevenson from Statesville, NC.
Every Sunday is special when we gather to worship the Lord, but today is extra special. We set aside one weekend a year to really focus our attention and seek to “Share the Son.” Visiting preachers share the word, and a guest song leader directs our singing to make the time memorable. We are glad that you are here to be part of it. Our theme says it all: “Our God is Able.” Let us make it more than a slogan for this event. May it always be a fact around which we base our lives.
Friday evening we revisited a life threatening situation. Three young men faced the choice of submitting to civil authorities or dying. They stood up to the challenge and passed the test. Their escape route led through a blazing oven from which they emerged unharmed. They held on to their faith in a time of crisis because they knew that their God was able.
Last night we looked past the temporary to the eternal. This world offers a quick fix for everything, but the real problem of humanity is more complex than that. A band aid will not cure the dilemma that we face. An aspirin cannot stop the pain. Many reach for drugs and alcohol to dull the ache. That may work for a minute, but not in the long term. Only our Lord is able to fix it forever, and He does.
Today we immerse ourselves into the notion that the Lord can do more than we can even think. Our imaginations are fertile, but they cannot touch the edges of His capabilities. He creates from nothing. He speaks to dead people and they rise. Demons jump at the sound of His voice. His words carry His limitless power which is at work within His people. Do not undervalue what it means to be a believer. It elevates us to a different level, because our God is able.
We misjudge what we can do. He is able and enables us. We can do anything that he wants us to do. We are capable not because of our strength but because of His. All we have to do is place ourselves unconditionally within His omnipotent hands and see what happens. He can do more with us than we can do with ourselves, if we will simply let Him.
Indeed, our God is able. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego stared down danger because they knew it. Our God is more able than our minds can grasp. All we have to do is believe and live the transformed life that faith in that fact produces. Step into this new week with confidence. Our God is able!
Nothing educates quite like a journey to a third world country. To be in situations where we truly see how totally dependent on the Lord we are opens the eyes in a way that nothing else can. To say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” takes on a whole new meaning when you have no idea where your next meal will come from. Bathing out of buckets or in rivers makes an American shower an indescribable luxury and there is no way to explain how comfortable these pews are this morning. Life there is harder than it is here, but we do share one common experience.
The devil is on the prowl seeking someone to consume (1 Peter 5:8). He is perpetually lurking outside the door waiting to attack. It does not matter if it is an ornate mansion door or a simple opening in a jungle hut, he is there. He hides, disguising himself in clever ways. If we drop our guard for even a minute, he will take advantage of us. If we think that easy living means that we are immune, we are mistaken. He deceives through luxury more often that he does through depravity. A full stomach may be more susceptible than an empty one.
The evidence is everywhere. We see his handiwork from the primitive villages to the nicest homes. He disrupts relationships; husbands and wives, parents and children, friends, neighbors, the church. The primary proof of his presence is a world torn apart. Sin does that, and it is everywhere. He would like to rip us out of the hands of God, but He cannot (John 10:28-29). So, he does the next best thing. He persuades us to loosen our grip on the Lord. He succeeds at a frightening rate.
The churches in South America bear the scars of sin and Satan. The situations varied, but the root cause was the same. The symptoms were different but the disease was identical. Churches in disarray. Families in peril. Christian soldiers who have laid aside the armor of God to clothe themselves in the ways of the world. Sin infiltrates and deforms, and it does so from the third world to the most advanced nation on earth.
North American congregations have the same wounds. They are just more subtle. We are so prosperous that we can anesthetize ourselves to the pain with creature comforts. Surround sound fills our ears, and flat screen televisions occupy our minds. Our days are full, and our hearts are empty. We run the wheels off of our cars in pursuit of meaning which only comes through Jesus Christ. The problems of every nation are not the product of poverty or adversity. They are the fruit of sin, and only the blood of the Savior can pay that debt.