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Thursday
Dec082011

"Do you believe this?"

FYI: Jesus was no mere "Information Dispenser".

Yes, we can and should learn much from Him, but His truth and teaching is intended to transform, not just inform.

He was no "Divine Data Dumper" on the dumb (that'd be us), nor did He instruct to just inspire or impress.

Further, truth is no toy to play with, examine and then just set back down. Truth is a dynamo that detonates and either destroys or delivers.

Jesus, knowing his friend Lazarus was terminally ill, divinely delayed a requested visit. Asked to come quickly, Jesus deferred Mary and Martha's pained-filled plea to heal their brother. Death came before Jesus. The demurring sisters grieve and fume: where was Jesus?

In deep mourning, Martha mixes it up with the Master about life after death. Disappointment and doubt drove her, pain pushed her. Jesus had failed her: He could have stopped this death.

Teaching her about their hope, Jesus challenged her -and us- with this question: "do you believe what I teach?" Read this instructive exchange from John 11:21-26

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

There it is: * "Do you believe this?” * Information is to be driven by and driven to application. Applied theology is the only really believed theology.

"Believe in Me & you will live", says Jesus. Great stuff! "Do you believe this?" asks Jesus? *Even better stuff. *

Yes, the thrust of this passage is about our hope in Jesus, even in the face of death. What a hope - the resurrection of those of faith! Such a promise.

Yet, promises merely processed without being procured by faith are powerless to us. Or, in plain words, when it comes to God's great gifts, "to receive it, you must also believe it."

"I am the conqueror of death and Hades", proclaims Jesus. "The ones who believe this live forever."

What a promise. Such a tremendous truth. But, let's not leave out the His salient & pertinent question: "Do you believe this?"

Do *YOU* believe this?

Do you believe* HIM*?

-- *Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor *Grace Bible Church (an EFCA)* *Kingsport, TN * ** <http://www.GetGraced.org>*www.GetGraced.org *

Tuesday
Nov222011

Giving Thanks for His Unshakeable Kingdom

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28, 29 - ESV)

We built some great tree houses when I was a kid. One had three levels and a roof escape hatch. Another was big enough to sleep in – almost fully stretched out.

But, alas, none are still standing. The craftsmanship and the materials doomed them to impermanence. Not to mention some were eyesores and were condemned by the landowner (read: Dad).

I take comfort in knowing that no structure built by people – be it material, social or political - lasts forever. Our best, even commendable efforts are doomed to finally fail. As has been said, heaven and earth will pass away. Ultimately even the Great Pyramids are just stone tree houses, as are nations and peoples.

Yet there is one kingdom that will last forever, one that is to elicit thanks and praise to its Builder. He employs superior skills and uses eternal materials yielding an enduring, unshakable realm.

You may have noticed, we are living in tumultuous times: the Arab Spring, economic upheaval in Europe and at home, not to mention those vile Rebecca Black haters. In the words of that great theologian Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s a whole lot a shakin’ going on.

Truth is, everyone has lived in shaky segments of history. Since the Fall, all of creation has been tumbling downhill, fast. Indeed: ashes, ashes, we all fall – not just Sir Humpty of Dumpty - down (see Romans 8:18-25; 3:23-25).

Yet we all long to be part of something solid and lasting - unshakable. Even truck and investment commercials appeal to our desire for rock-solid, enduring things. Permanence is not sexy but it is attractive; possibly a God-given urge.

Enter the re-Creator God. His original design was perfect, but we tainted it through and through. Thankfully, with Christ as our redeemer and restorer, there is a hope of a reboot. With sin dealt with on the cross, a new creation and kingdom can be established that is more than solid, it is eternal. Its builder and maker are none other than God (Heb. 11:10).

No wonder we read in Hebrews 12:28 that we are to thank and praise Him. God’s just judgment has been satisfied and there is a promise of a permanent place, received by grace through faith.

Though the original “Black Friday” - Jesus’ crucifixion - was not a shopping event, nonetheless a great purchase was made that day. Banking on Jesus’ unique sinless status, God offers to credit us with righteousness, forgiveness and even provide adoption (Col. 1:11-14). Jesus door-busting the gates of hell!

Even now, He is preparing a place for us that cannot be rattled by natural or spiritual forces (John 14:1-6; Rom. 8:21-38). Someday, after he shakes and breaks up the current heavens and earth, He will unveil His everlasting realm (Rev. 20 - 22).

Remarkably, He provides all this by grace. It is a “received” kingdom, not earned or deserved. We are citizens at His pleasure, not our plotting or striving (go imbibe Ephesians 2:1-10; John 1:10-13; Titus 3:3-7).

No wonder we are told to thank Him. It’s fittin’ to give Him proper praise that is filled with rightful respect. Away with our empty, flippant words and mindless, mere dutiful deeds, He deserves and demands sincere, worthy worship.

Will there be tree houses in the new heavens and earth? Who knows? There will be humble, grateful worshippers, objects of grace that practiced marveling at His majesty here and now.

Kingdoms come and go, but not His coming righteous realm. It’s unshakable! As Handel’s *Messiah* rightly rings out: And He shall reign forever and ever. Let us thank Him for this hope and worship Him with slack-jaw awe at His grace and power.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:28, 29 - NIV)

*Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor *Grace Bible Church (an EFCA)* *Kingsport, TN* * <http://www.GetGraced.org> *

Wednesday
Oct262011

Parking Tickets & the Gospel

Parking Tickets & the Gospel by Kerry S. Doyal - Pastor, forgiven sinner

Of all times to get a parking ticket!* That night,* while trying to help some hurting people? As the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

At least it can seem that way at times. And such inequities bother us greatly. “That’s not fair!” we cry. Justice denied is grievous to us.

But wait: justice applied seems to bother us even more. When it is fair for us to face consequences, we expect (demand?) mercy, even if the judge has to be unjust to give us a break. After all, what I did wasn’t that bad or as bad as *them*. Funny, fickle folks are we.

But enough legalese, back to my tragic tale of ticket “injustices”.

Once upon a time - well, about 15 years ago - I was visiting a troubled young family, again. It was a night-time crisis call, again. I was seeking to defuse a volatile situation, offer some encouragement.

After a tiring time of ministry, I wearily walked to my car, ready to get home. I was greeted and rewarded for my efforts by a parking ticket. I had parked on the wrong side of the street.

Lucky me (providentially speaking), I violated a Round Lake Beach, IL law I did not know existed. Though ignorant of it, I was guilty. A law had been broken, a penalty assessed and a price had to be paid. Yet, it didn’t seem fair. Refer back to “no good deed…”

It just so happened that the Mayor of that stickler-for-justice town was a good friend. In fact, he went to our church. Better still, the Chief of Police and I had gotten to know each other. Not exactly buddies, we were not strangers. *Ticket me, will ya?!*

However, it would have been wrong to go to either of these men asking them to dismiss my ticket. That would be cheating the system. If they extended me this “favor”, it would be unjust of them as well.

Arbitrary justice ain’t justice, even if it seems to my good. They would be obliged to dismiss any other pitiful plaintiffs that sought a break. I broke a just law, was penalized and a price had to be paid. Stinks to be me, but pony up and shut up already.

One day, as this true tale goes, my sweet wife – the heroine of our fine story - out of her own loving pity and initiative went to City Hall and paid my ticket. I had committed the crime, she did the time – well, dropped the dime.

My standing with the law, Mayor and Chief were set right. How? Because someone paid my price. I had a new legal relationship and I still have the “paid in full” stamped-receipt from the city to prove it. Sound familiar?

Writing about what God did for us through Jesus, Paul proclaimed: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 - ESV). Read that again.

Jesus’ friend and disciple Peter penned: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18 – NIV).

Tis’ true: “I had a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe.” We have all broken God's law and a penalty with a price we cannot afford has to be paid. (Soberly read Romans 3:23; Hebrews 9:26-28.)

In explaining God’s mega-good news - the gospel – Paul writes: “when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:6b-10 - NIV).

Wow! We rightly-condemned sinners have been extended God’s just mercy. The sinless One – Jesus – has paid our fine with His life. A new relationship with Heaven’s Mayor is available. The Sheriff has been satisfied. Rebels can come home and have their records wiped clean.

Lawbreakers need to admit their guilt and submit to the Judge. Trusting the Risen One for forgiveness, we receive a status of “not guilty” – acquitted, justified. Our Judge now becomes our adopting Father. By His Spirit, He instructs and empowers us to know and fulfill His will (Romans 5-8).

I have another ticket to tell you about- an ignored, thrown to the wind writ-of-guilt. I found this one on a street in Chicago. Some people - scoff laws they are called – simply throw away their tickets, ignoring their guilt, the fine. They don’t believe there will be a day of reckoning.

We are far worse scoff laws when we dismiss or discount our guilt before God. We may reject or disdain His standards, but we are without excuse (see Romans 1:16-23; 3:10-31). There will be a day we have to give an account; yes, a day of judgment (John 3:36; 5:24).

We are not without hope, though. Whoever humbly calls out to God for mercy through Jesus’s death and resurrection is given eternal life (Romans 10:9-13). You are adopted and graced to live your new identity as His children.

Scoff laws daftly dare God to hold them accountable. Most others simply expect God to ignore their sins, even if He has to act unjustly to do so.

God calls us to repent of lawless living. To bow before His bar of justice, cry out for needed mercy which He freely offers through Jesus. Having died to our sinful ways, we lean on Him and learn a new way of life. Why not plead guilty and be declared innocent today?

Sunday
Oct092011

It IS the Thought that Counts

*Great news: *Deepening your mark for Christ on others can be very easy! Expanding your impact for God is not usually complicated. Brace yourself for a cheesy phrase on how to increase impact for the Lord. I hope you will stick around for an explanation. Here's the cheese: "Put your mind to it and then just do it."

For those still with me, I even have a verse that will justify everything. Pitiful, huh? My assumption is that you desire to maximize your service for Christ seen in changed lives by His grace. That is where we are heading, but first, a story:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, is in jail - again - this time in Rome. Always the disciple-maker, he is writing letters to churches he has served. One is a joy-filled thank you note to the church he started in Philippi. These generous souls had supported him many times in the past, but most recently they lost contact with Paul.

Concerned about his babies - believers he was growing into maturity - Paul had sent co-laborers to check on various churches' health. Epaphroditus stopped in on the church in Philippi and was glad to see they were doing well. They were glad to hear news about Paul and be able to reconnect. Seizing the opportunity, they sent a gift back to Paul via Epaphroditus. They once again had a chance to show their love through support.

With this backdrop, we better appreciate Paul's words in Philippians 4:10, 11, 14. "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want... Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction" (NASB).

The Message reads: "I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess - happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. ... I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me - it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles."

Expressed thoughtfulness touches people deeply - even the mature, confident, competent, content types, like Paul. Though their gift was appreciated, it was their concern, their thoughts of him that was valued most. "Thanks for thinking of me!" he writes. "Not that I was in need because, I have learned to be content. Nevertheless, your gift was appreciated. It was a sweet smelling sacrifice that pleases God" (vs. 18).

That is lofty language. Thus my cheesy ministry advice: "Put your mind to it and then just do it." When we keep people in our hearts and minds and then express it, we set off parties of praise to God. Prisoner Paul "mega-rejoiced." So do people when you revive your concern for them by expressing it in any one of thousands of ways (chocolate being near the top of the list :) ).

Practical acts of kindness encourages others and prompts praise to God. Though Paul had learned contentment - how to live with a little or lots - he was still stirred by their present. They remember him. He was not forgotten. They had ongoing love for him and their gift was proof. Hallelujah.

Which life-prisoners would throw a party of praise if you were to let them know you still thought of them, loved and appreciated them? A card, a call, an e-mail, flowers, a txt msg, a gift, dark chocolate. Simple words and acts of love leave deep marks. Some two thousand years later, we still hear echoes of Paul's thanks.

Are people disposable or expendable to you? They serve your purposes for a season and then you are done - moving on. "Next!" Hold on a moment, please. The Greatest commandment was to love God. Number Two was to love people, as much as we already love ourselves - untold bunches.

People are precious and fragile- they need love, to be remembered, respected and thanked. Many folks are often refueled with hope and purpose by someone simply saying "thanks, good job, I appreciate you, care for some chocolate?"

God's love for us was shown in giving His one-of-a-kind, only-one-qualified Son to die for us rebels. He considered our need and - dare I put it so blandly - did something about it. He did not simply hatch a plan back in eternity; He acted on it, conveying His glory, grace and covenant love. Just maybe He is a worthy model to emulate.

Soap box alert: We have gotten so used to doing ministry via church programs - which can be great tools of God - that we forget to love on people outside the "ministry" we have. "They are not in my class. Sorry." It seems God only works in 13-week segments, in hour-long blocks inside church buildings. We do our thing and are through for the week. Thus the anemic church (please read Ephesians 4:11-16).

Extending and deepening your ministry is not hard: show genuine concern for others in practical ways. Do you keep-up with people or forget them? What long-lost friend, old teacher or student can you track down and convey your love, respect and fond memories?

Who do you need to let know that they are in your thoughts and prayers? Seems that telepathy is faulty stuff. Thinking it is not enough. Thus the profound advice: "Put your mind to it and then just do it."

Okay, all the cards on the table: yes, this is Pastor appreciation month (did I mention chocolate?). But, pastors are not the only ones who need blessing. After you thank current and former Shepherds, keep going (read James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:16-20). How about that Camp Director, neighbor, Sunday School teacher, Queen of the Casseroles, Deacon, Elder, nursery worker, Youth worker, Mom, Dad, secretary, bus driver...?

It was in response to the kindness of these same Philippians that Paul wrote: "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (Phil. 4:19, 20 - NASB).

Amen indeed! Now, go get 'em.

*Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor

Thursday
Sep292011

The Danger of a missed diagnosis

*Are Things Worse Than They Sound?*

A confused or missed diagnosis can be fatal. Melanomas ain’t moles, lumps need looking into. Likewise, blindly ignoring or minimizing a health scare is foolish. To not give the right significance to the right things is a deadly game.

(Okay Ladies, please read on a bit more before handing this to that thick-headed loveable lug.)

The same can be said for shunning or shushing a spiritual health check-up. We may wrongly assume we are spiritually healthy because we don’t… (pick your favorite pet sins) and we faithfully… (plug in your faithful Christian behavior). Yet, what if we are using the wrong measures and matrix?

For example, how serious does this spiritual-evaluation sound to you? Lacking reverence or respect for the Lord, not giving God credit or thanks for all He does, even the "little things" like timely rain and changing seasons?

Not too bad? After all, we're not talking murder or rape or any big sins, right? Would these symptoms - if they were true of you - scare you about your spiritual state? Would you grade this as just slightly flabby or flailing and failing?

Judging by the things we most often rail against, I fear that irreverence and ingratitude do not draw much attention or concern. After all, we have homosexuals and addicts to beat up on. Thus our need to humbly listen to the Lord's evaluation through the Prophet Jeremiah:

"But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, 'Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.' (Jeremiah 5:23, 24 - ESV).

His chosen, blessed people no longer feared or reverenced Him. Respect for their Savior slipped to complacency. Familiarity – true to form - had breed contempt. They took Him and his provisions for granted. God called this rebellion. Calls us rebels? This invited divine discipline. They were sin-sick.

Reading further in Jeremiah, we see these sins pointed to spiritual stubbornness. These ominous indicators of soul-sickness showed that these sheep had strayed. The passage goes on to speak of God's impending righteous judgment of His worldly, self-sufficient people.

Irreverence and ingratitude are indicators of hard hearts, of being off God’s path. Sheep that are whiny and self-willed have strayed. This is a big deal. Telling God to butt out is far worse than drunkenness or sexual sins (leads to them?). But that’s the essence of not worshipping God through one’s daily living.

Use this text to courageously self-diagnose: Do you treat God with familiarity or flippancy? Are His gifts and provisions assumed and presumed on by you? Frankly - we foolishly think - we deserve His care! This is “us”, after all. God have mercy.

Check your pulse and seek help for a better bill of health. Turn back to the path, His ways, Him. Thank Him, obey Him, honor and love Him. Or expect His just and loving hand of correction. Spoiled brats work hard for their comeuppance, His chastening (ponder Hebrews 12).

The Apostle Paul also warned us of foolishly provoking God’s wrath in this way. In Romans 1 we meet self-proclaimed wise ones who have botched-up their brains by marginalizing the Almighty. Read carefully this powerful and pivotal passage:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men... For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools... (Romans 1:18, 21-22 - ESV).

Dishonoring God and not thanking Him are the major markings of the godless. How tragic when they also describe the people of God. We have no excuse. None.

Repent of any hints of this in your own life. Work at giving Him His due, thank Him for everything. Enthrone the King (i.e. move your pitiful butt out of His way) and extol His greatness and gracious provisions.

“Almighty God, please forgive my hard, proud heart. Thank you, heavenly Father for Your provisions. Be ever and increasingly exalted in my life. Amen.”

Kerry S. Doyal - Grace Bible Church, an EFCA

Making disciples of Jesus who love God & others by living & sharing His truth

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