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February 2, 2015, 12:46 PM

Opening God's Word

This month we are engaged in a privilege that many around the world do not enjoy – the privilege of opening our own copy of God’s Word, the Bible.  As the people who gather for worship at Skyline Baptist Church begin the Community Bible Experience, we also have a brand new, modified edition of the New Testament to read.  It has been reformatted to better enable reading of the inspired text as did the very first recipients.  We have been so accustomed to chapter and verse divisions, that we slip unknowingly into the vantage of treating the Bible as a reference tool for suggestions and guidelines on ways to live rather than hungrily receiving it as the living and active word of God.

Just this week I had the privilege of meeting with a man associated with a ministry that has afforded him the opportunity to visit believers in other nations – even those in the former Soviet Union nations.  We have heard the stories of spiritual brothers and sisters who did not have enough copies of the Bible for each person in the local church to own, so they literally cut apart the books of one copy so that each could have a portion to take home, read and then bring back to church and pass to another member of the church.  My friend reported witnessing such a situation first hand rather than hear about it from another.  He was also privileged to be present in that same church as a case of Bibles arrived, and witness the literal tears in the eyes of the believers as they realized that they each could now have their very own copy of the entire Bible!

How do we compare?  Many of us – and I am guilty as well – have multiple copies of the Scripture, and in various translations.  Not only do I have several physical Bibles, but as part of my Bible study software, I have even more copies and translations in electronic form!  Yet do we deeply desire to devour God’s word?  Christian surveys have shown that 60 percent of American believers don’t feel they read the Bible enough.  We now have the opportunity to read the New Testament together as a body in a special, concentrated way over the next 40 days (5 days a week for 8 weeks).  Will we actively participate, by not just reading but also by meeting together regularly to talk and share about what we are experiencing?  Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  It is my prayer that you will genuinely allow God to wield this spiritual sword in your life in a new way in the weeks leading up to our Resurrection Celebration at Easter.

 




January 18, 2015, 9:41 AM

Hidden Things

In November 2014, just as we were seeing repairs to the ground floor of our educational building being completed from rain water in September, a plumbing problem in the upstairs rest rooms caused additional water damage to the both those restrooms and the ground floor as the water worked through the second story floor into the restrooms downstairs and into the adjoining areas.  An additional insurance claim and dealing with adjustors and we have now finally gotten to the point of beginning repairs once again.

Monday, January 12, 2015 the work began on the downstairs restrooms.  That’s when the discovery was made.  As the damaged ceilings were torn out in the downstairs restrooms, in the corner above the ceiling the stash was discovered:  over twenty empty beer cans!  Evidently, during the original construction of our educational building in the 1960’s, someone had a great beer bust and threw their empties into a partially completed ceiling!  Since we suppose much of the construction was done by volunteer church members or mission teams from out of the area, we can only hope it was not they who had the party and stashed the empty beer cans!

Yet it makes one think – what kinds of things do we all have hidden that we hope will never be discovered.  One church history record made mention of work done on the second floor of the educational building in May of 1964 – so for about 50 years those beer cans were present, and unknown to the church!  Yet Psalm 69:5 says, “O God, it is You who knows my folly, And my wrongs are not hidden from You.”  And Ecclesiastes 12:14 comments, “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

We all have things hidden about which we hope others will not learn.  Yet we also have the assurance that when we faithfully confess our sin to God, He is faithful to forgive us for those acts and to no longer hold them against our account!  We know hidden sin is hidden only from people, but never to God.  So when we are prompt to confess sin before God we are able to be cleansed from it and restored to full fellowship.

But did you also realize that the Bible mentions a wonderful thing that is hidden?  You!  That is, if you have given your life over to God by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  Colossians 3:3 states, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  The death referred to in this verse is our death to sin and to self, and the placing of our faith and our life in the Father’s care by our trust in Jesus and what He did for us.  That’s why Paul could write in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 and say, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

It is a constant battle to recognize and to renounce the things that pull us into the sinful ways of those who don’t know Christ, but as we are faithful to commit our lives and energy to obeying the Lord and doing the work He has given us to be involved in, we are (as Paul said) commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  Let me challenge you to give every effort to the ministry of loving your neighbor as God loves them, and sharing with them the grace and mercy of God.  As we are faithful to reach out to others, God will bless our efforts and draw people to Him through us.  Let’s be faithful, and rejoice in what God does in our church and our city!

Brother Robert

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November 23, 2014, 11:00 AM

A Christmas Thanksgiving

A Christmas Thanksgiving

At the beginning of December we have just enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday and are gearing up for the Christmas holiday.  As Christians we often get so frustrated at our culture and feel our society has pushed Baby Jesus completely out of the manger by ostracizing any mention of His birth and refusing to even use the greeting, “Merry Christmas.”  Culture seems eager to embrace offending Christians under the guise of not offending every non-Christians group or sentiment!

As we begin our focus as believers this season, we will undoubtedly revisit the birth account of Jesus many times.  Sunday mornings in December leading up to Christmas I am going to try something new as I share messages in the form of dramatic monologues – seeking to portray biblical persons related to the birth of Jesus.  I welcome your prayers and openness as I attempt this.

Right now I would like you to focus on Mary and consider carefully the young woman chosen by God for her special role.  Beginning in Luke 1:26 we read the announcement to Mary that she has been chosen to bear the promised Messiah.  We are amazed at the faith of this young woman whom some scholars believe may have been only a young teenager – perhaps 12-14 years of age.  She humbly accepted the statement as being true, asking only for an explanation as to how the conception would occur.  Then, in Luke 1:46-55 we have recorded an incredible song of praise Mary presented when greeted by her cousin, Elizabeth.

 

Mary began by praising or lifting up the name of God.  The term Mary uses at the outset to praise God is translated variously as “exalts,” “magnifies,” “glorifies” or a similar term by the different English translations.  The purpose of the term is easy to recognize.  Mary’s desire was to expand or increase the honor due God by her life and her willingness to be used in His plan for bringing the Messiah to earth.  Her praise goes on in recognizing that the honor others would pay her was entirely due to God and His continual greatness as demonstrated throughout history as the Lord has continually interacted with humanity.  She exalts God’s honoring of those who rely on Him and His humbling of the proud and those who seek to lift themselves up over others. 

I encourage you to take a few moments to read Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-55.  Then you might want to reflect for a moment on a couple of questions.  When I experience God’s grace or honor, is my first response to praise Him?  Or am I more likely to seek to bask in whatever attention I might receive?  Do I, like Mary, rejoice in God my Savior (Luke 1:47)?  As we engage in the holiday season this Christmas, what is my focus – on God, or someone else (family, friends or even me!)? 

I encourage you to allow the thanksgiving we try to express to God for who He is and what He has done for us in November permeate your entire Christmas celebration.  Seek specific ways you can honor the Lord Jesus in how you celebrate and in the priorities you make this Christmas.  What a wonderful time to testify to others of the greatness of our wonderful God and our Lord Jesus whose birth we celebrate!

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July 30, 2014, 10:16 AM

The Paradox of Change

What did you think when you read the title of this piece?  Do you know what a paradox is?  Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides three definitions:  1) a tenet (a principle, belief or doctrine generally held to be true) contrary to received opinion, 2) a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true, and 3) one (as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases (© 2014 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated).

How does that relate to change?  For me, personally, it is a paradox as I realize that the older I become, the more I am like the majority of people who resist change.  Yet at the same time, I really see the need for change and greatly desire it on many levels.  I hope you can relate to these feelings, for I believe they are more universal that we like to admit. 

Whether we like it or not, change is often thrust upon us.  As a church and a spiritual people we encounter it all the time.  Come to any of our Wednesday evening studies in our Adult Discipleship Studies and simply take a look at our prayer list.  The vast majority of our requests are in the area of health concerns.  People are constantly dealing with physical illness, disease and debilitation brought on by age whether we like it or not!  Other changes are pushed on us as is seen in some of the “general needs” prayer requests we receive – personal choices, financial needs, relationship problems and on and on.

In July, as a church, we had some changes as well.  A member who has been a faithful part of our church family for over 40 years has relocated to be near family, and her absence is felt by many.  She often worked in what some call “helps ministries” – working quietly, serving others and not desiring or receiving a great deal of public recognition.  The gaps created by her departure are real.  At the same time, July also saw our first VBS in three years.  As a result, one young boy shared last Sunday that he trusted in Jesus as his personal Savior – a change that affects him (and we as a church) eternally!  We also were able to impact many children that are not a regular part of Skyline Baptist.  Many are involved already in other churches, and we most likely will never know just how God used our workers to touch those lives. 

Personally, I was the recipient of the love and generosity of our church family as I underwent eye surgery near the end of July.  Due to insurance issues, I was faced with high costs to have the necessary cataract surgery, and many of you gave love gifts that demonstrated your care and concern to help in that area.  Every month I see your generosity in action as we distribute food and clothing to people in our area in need.  I could not help but think of your love, as in my devotional reading this week I read these verses in Proverbs:  Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor (Proverbs 14:21 ESV); Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him (Proverbs 14:31 ESV). 

Let me challenge you to embrace the paradox of change.  We are all comfortable with routine and familiar things, and tend to resist change, but change is going to come.  Change is a necessary part of life as we seek to let God do what He desires in and through us.  “Father, lead us, and we will follow your direction, even if it requires change!”

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July 2, 2014, 10:17 AM

Blessings and Blow-Ups

Father’s Day and the following week Darlene and I were in Salt Lake City visiting our son, Thomas, daughter-in-law, Liz, and their new baby (and our newest grandchild), Robert Michael Warmath, who entered this world June 8, 2014 at 11:56 pm.  Talk about a blessing.  We even kept him in our room overnight at the kid’s house three times to give Mom a break. 

Psalm 127:3-5a says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”  (ESV)  Indeed, what a blessing it was to be with our family in Utah, and enjoy our newest of three grandchildren. 

Upon returning to El Paso, we learned of all types of difficulties here at home.  The very Sunday we were celebrating with our son on his very first Father’s Day, our nursery worker here at Skyline tripped at church and broke her ankle, requiring surgery.  Many hours of my first week back in the office were spent communicating with insurance, filling out and transmitting forms to the appropriate companies to fulfill our obligations to make certain Irma is receiving the coverage that is her due as a church employee.  I then learned that another member of the congregation had a pacemaker installed!  Praise God he is doing well.

I also learned of some, shall we say, “glitches” that occurred technically with the computer and video system here at our facility used to present visuals for the worship services.  I don’t know what all you meanies did to our poor computer, but it has been operating perfectly for me since my return.  I thought I had everything set up technically to run smoothly while we were out of town, yet problems still cropped up in spite of my preparations. 

Sounds a bit like life, doesn’t it?  Our daily experience is often a combination of blessings and blow-ups.  No matter how well we think we have prepared for smooth sailing, the winds and waves of this world still continue to come and upset the status quo.  We sometimes seem to think that simply because we know Jesus as personal Savior that this relationship somehow guarantees no problems.  Yet that is never promised in Scripture.  God has promised this in Isaiah 43:2 – “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”  Hardship and unexpected problems are going to come up.  But we have a great God and loving Father who will be with us in all trials and troubles.

So is there anything we can do to prepare for such times?  Yes!  James 4:8 asserts:  “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Don’t forget the last half of that verse!  Keep your relationship with God current by confessing sin as soon as you are aware of your shortcomings.  Spend the time to draw near to God in daily reading His word and praying with Him.  Remember that prayer is not a one way street!  Yes, we present our needs and requests to God.  But we must also stop and listen and seek to hear spiritually as God speaks to us, both through the Bible and the Holy Spirit living within us.  Remember that our goal is to know God and Jesus well, and not be moved when the winds and waves of this life come against us.  As Paul wrote, spiritual leaders were given to us “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:12-14 ESV).

This blog is the Pastor's column from our July 2014 Newsletter.  How has God walked with you through the blow-ups or difficult times in your life?  Your comments are much appreciated! 

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Page 1 2 3 4 5 6   Entries 21-25 of 29