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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

“Open Your Eyes, Mouths, Hearts and Lives”

(Part 2 of 2)

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
John 4:35

With the Earth’s population reaching nearly 7 billion and the number of those who confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior being just under 2 billion, the need to reach those who are lost is still very much there… but we have to open up!
Many believe that because of the tremendous strides we have made with technology that the need to proclaim the gospel and take the truth to others is unnecessary. We can communicate through television, radio, newspapers and magazines. We can tweet, instant message, send Facebook posts and email around the world. Some say that because of this, our world has become much smaller. Yet, there are still thousands upon thousands who have never heard the good news of the Gospel! We have closed our eyes to the eternal needs of those around us.

Opening our faith begins with opening our eyes and rediscovering there is a need. Then we must continue to open up! Romans 10:13-14 challenges us to open up our mouths:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of who they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"

We have been given the mandate to open our mouths and share the good news of Jesus Christ. This is not a passage of scripture directed towards men and women who have chosen ministry as their vocation. No! It was written to the church, the body of Christ, stirring us to open up our faith! The early church in Acts 2 devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, prayer and praising God. They were not silent about their faith! This was not only heard, but seen as they also opened up their hearts:

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
Acts 2:44

1 John 3 reminds us that if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? John then challenges us with these words: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and truth. This then is truth, and how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence.”
Sincere words are of no value if they are not coupled with authentic action! It is when these two are combined that those who are lost and hurting believe in the genuineness of our faith.

Yet, it is when we open up our lives to those who need Christ that we become fully engaged. The apostle Paul wrote the believers in Thessalonica this wonderful passage:

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

I fear that, as a whole, the body of Christ, here in the U.S. has become very closed off. Coming to Christ has become very impersonal with televised messages, radio worship, and internet chat rooms for fellowship. You can e-mail us your prayers and direct deposit your tithe! It is easy to close yourself off from the Body and still “be” a Christian.

That is why the Christian faith, as we often present it, is not well received, because the lost, rejected, hurting and needy are tired of feeling closed off! There is a hunger today, even within our world of plenty, for authentic fellowship. It is authentic devotion to God coupled with our authentic devotion to one another that appeals to those who feel unaccepted.

I want to challenge you today to bloom. A flower is beautiful to look at, but it cannot reproduce until it blooms. Its fullness cannot be realized until it opens up…so open your eyes, open your mouth, open your heart and open your life to those around you today!

Pastor Scott Burr

“Opening Up Our Faith”

(part 1 of 2)

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

If this is where the gospels ended we might be left to wonder just how serious Jesus’ disciples took these final instructions. However, we are blessed to have been provided with the Book of Acts that documents the tremendous lengths, extreme difficulties and painful trials the disciples went through to fulfill Jesus’ last directive.

I began to consider this week the great commission and was struck by the idea that His final instruction to His disciples was not only directed at them, but was for me as well. I began questioning how seriously I have been taking His departing words.
I rejoiced a couple of Sundays ago when a young man visiting our church gave his life to Christ, but as magnificent as it was, it pales to compare to the harvest recorded in Acts 2:40-41:

“With many other words he warned them; and pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about THREE THOUSAND were added to their number that day.”(emphasis mine)
Acts 2:47 goes on to tell us that the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. As I considered this, I realized that it is hard to do what the disciples did if we “compartmentalize” salvation to a Sunday morning experience. According to Acts 2:42-46 making disciples was an “every day” occasion:

”They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people and the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.”

Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple Courts. They ate together and took care of one another. They worshipped together and devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. Sharing their faith became an “every day” occasion. They shared their faith openly with one another and the Lord added to their numbers those who were being saved!

Pastor Scott Burr

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

“Fasting-Breaking the Carnal Man”

(Part 2 of 2)

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Galatians 6:8

Fasting is far more than simply “not eating”. Apart from its many physical and spiritual blessings, fasting is a statement. It is a statement to our carnal man (the flesh) that we are not slaves to our appetites. Many will say, “I am not a slave to my appetite! I have it all under control. I can say “No” anytime I want to.” However, the flesh is not something that can be harnessed or controlled. It must be crucified:

“Those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
Galatians 5:24

The more we cater to our flesh the more carnal we become. The more carnal we become the harder it is for us to fast. Fasting enables us to crucify our appetite for things such as food, sex, and entertainment. It demonstrates a desire to be led by the Holy Spirit and not by our stomach:

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Galatians 5:16-18

There is a spiritual tug-of-war that is taking place inside those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Spirit inside of them has been made alive and now is battling for the souls of men. However, the carnal man has been in control for so long, it does not want to release the reigns and fights against the Spirit of God working inside of us.

Before coming to Christ, many of us were not aware of such a struggle. That is because, our spirit man was dead! The only nature alive in us was our sin nature. Consequently, the only nature we fed was our carnal nature and it liked being the center of our attention. Once we came to Christ, and were made alive in Him, the Holy Spirit took up residence within us.

With the Spirit’s help we are to crucify that old nature. We are not to ignore it, excuse it, or cater to it! We are to crucify it! As we deprive our flesh of what it desires, it sends a clear message to our carnal man… “You are not in control!” So be led of the Holy Spirit! Start off this year with fasting and tell your flesh “NO!”

Pastor Scott Burr

“Fasting-Breaking the Carnal Man”

(Part 1 of 2)

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”

Philippians 3:17-19

Albert Haase, a contemporary Franciscan priest, is quoted as saying, “Fasting can be a painful admission that I am not free, that my life is enslaved, obsessed or addicted to external things such as food, drink, codependent relationships, sex, television, privacy and the like.”

Fasting, like no other discipline, exposes our carnal nature. It allows us to see just how carnal we have become and sadly reveals how much we have been catering to our flesh. This may be the true reason that many people do not like, want, or are even opposed to fasting.

However, it is only when we deprive our flesh that we truly see how strongly it holds us. The flesh, that has never been restrained, is like a spoiled brat of a child that throws a fit when it does not get what it wants. How many of us have seen this child in the grocery store. Kicking and screaming, throwing a tantrum because their parents told them they could not have something they wanted. Our first inclination is to think, “Someone needs to discipline that child!” We start judging their parents for their lack of parenting skills.

Yet, the moment our “flesh” rises up at the notion of not getting what it wants and begins to protest we either excuse it, or worse, cater to it! The word caters means: to provide with what is needed or required. Catering to our carnal man means that we provide it with whatever it needs to satisfy its appetites. Paul describes this above as “their god is their stomach”. Worshipping our “stomach” is no more than giving in to the demands of our flesh in order to silence its protests. When we cater to its desires we, in turn, displease God:

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God."

Romans 8:5-8

Fasting is one way that we tell the “carnal” man….NO!!! It is spiritual correction keeping us from serving our own appetites. When is the last time you told your flesh “No!”?

Pastor Scott Burr

“Memorial Offerings”

“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”
Acts 10:1-4

When I read that passage, the first thing I considered was that Cornelius was just a normal guy. He was not a priest. He was not a Pharisee. He was not a Sadducee. He was not even a Jew! Cornelius was a man who loved God and loved his family. However, he was a man who lived in such a way that it got God’s attention. When it came time for God to pour out the Holy Spirit on the gentiles, God chose Cornelius and his family.
Cornelius had distinguished himself from other God-fearing gentiles through his prayers and gifts to the poor. The angel told Cornelius that his prayers and gifts had come up to God as a memorial offering. A memorial is something established, like a special day or a monument, which causes us to remember a particular person or event. Whenever Cornelius would pray or give to the needy, it rose like smoke from a burnt offering to the throne of God and caused God to remember him. Like a sacrifice made on the altar in the Temple, Cornelius’ prayers and gifts were pure. They were properly motivated. They were not done out of obligation or coercion, but from a heart devoted to God. They were not done to gain notoriety among men, but offered as an “outflow” of a right relationship with God.
Cornelius was the poster-child for Matthew 6:1:
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
What are the ‘acts of righteousness’ Jesus is speaking of? They are... giving, prayer and fasting. Like Cornelius, we ought to be men and women recognized by God for our generosity, our passionate prayer and perseverance in fasting. Always remembering that none of these brings us into right standing with God, but rather they are born out of our faith and relationship with Him.
Giving, Prayer and fasting touch the heart of God. They are fragrant offerings to our Lord! It is my prayer, for this New Year, as you give, pray and fast that God will pour out His Spirit upon you and your family.

Pastor Scott Burr