Wednesday, January 23, 2008

3 Steps to Blessedness

My wife has this thing she tells the kids from time to time, ‘When people show you who they are, you need to believe them.”

The key word is ‘show’.

It ain’t what it say or what it look like, it’s what it DO??!!

Love is an action word.

My wife and I often find ourselves in the situation where we’re trying to teach our children what is right and what is wrong and in the process of teaching by example, we’ve both had to grow into being more mature people than we used to be.

Even though I’ve done it on various of occasions, I actually found myself instructing my son not to drink directly out of the juice bottle.

It really comes down to being too lazy to wash and dry a cup.

“Look here mane, " I told my son, " I kiss my wife on the lips, I don’t want to swap spit with NOBODY else, so don’t contaminate the drinking supply with your germs. . “

Strange, I never made that connection until I became a father..does that make me a hypocrite??? Anyway…

As you can see, my family and I go through real life issues just like everybody else. Just because we’re a Christian family doesn’t mean we don’t ever have to go to therapy sessions.

My wife and I tossed around the idea of doing a reality show, kinda like Rev. Run’s House/Bernie Mac/My Wife and Kids or something, but I think she’s afraid of what I might say if the camera is on me too long.

Which is another reason of why I enjoy going to worship and praise services. I enjoy learning more about God and the path prescribed for us to walk. Being ‘good’ never came naturally to me, I had to ‘act’ like I had some sense.

And know that I made it past the chasm of confusion and unbelief and onto the side of the Believers in Christ, I know I still have a lot of growing to do. I still enjoy being taught and learning. I definitely enjoy a good sermon, we all need to be ‘preached up’ a bit from time to time when our spirits get low and our batteries need to be recharged.

And so often I find myself listening to sermons and I feel like the minister is talking specifically, directly and to nobody else but me. No matter how many people are in the congregation, God sent this person to minister to my soul.

This past Sunday, I felt myself in another one of these ‘He’s talking to YOU’ situations as I sat through our morning 11 o’clock service at Blueridge Baptist Church, 9621 Chesterfield.

Our church is going through a time of change right now, and we had a visiting minister deliver the address. He had already preached at our church before and conducted a Bible Study back in August, and I highlighted his points in Paper Chasing.

Rev. Ralph Fairley is his name, and although of slight stature, he wields a heavy sword when it comes to ministering the gospel of Christ. We actually know some of the same people, because his wife and I are both Stanford alums.

Our custom (at our church) is to stand in reverence to God’s Word, as the minister reads the passage of Scripture that he is going to expound upon. His text this Sunday was out of Haggai, the 2nd Chapter.

I was sitting in a pew right next to my father and as we stood, I flipped through my Bible and leaned over to him and asked, ‘Where’s Haggai??”

I knew Haggai was a latter prophet, somewhere after Daniel but before Malachi, but I didn’t know exactly where and I didn’t want to be the ‘novice’ of having to look at the table of contents. My dad, being the Bible scholar that he is, whispered, “It’s right before Zechariah”

I still had a hard problem finding Zechariah..and Zephaniah, but there was Haggai, right between the two.

Haggai is a small book, comprised of only 2 chapters.

Haggai was a prophet of the restored remnant of Israel after the 70 years captivity. They had returned to Israel and were allowed to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. The text began at the 10th verse…

In the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the Word of Jehovah came by Haggai the prophet, saying, So says Jehovah of Hosts: Now ask the priests the Law, saying, If one carries holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and touches his skirt to bread, or boiled food, or wine, or oil, or any food, will it become holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then Haggai said, If one unclean of body touches these, is it unclean? And the priests answered and said, It is unclean. And Haggai answered and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before Me, says Jehovah. And so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. And now, I ask you, set your heart on it; from this day and onward, before the placing of a stone on a stone in the temple of Jehovah; from then onward, one came to a heap of twenty measures, and there were but ten; one came to the wine vat to draw off fifty from the winepress, and there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and with mildew, and with hail, in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me, says Jehovah. Now set your heart from this day and forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that Jehovah's temple was founded. Set your heart: Is the seed still in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, have not brought forth. From this day I will bless you.

(Haggai 2:10-19 MKJV)

The title of his sermon was ‘Three Steps to Blessedness”

He started talking about working in corporate America and being privy to the large sums of money that were transferred everyday. With his position, he was able to see checks into the 6 figure amounts. And all the time he would wonder, how could he get HIS name on one of those checks next to, Pay to the Order of:

So many preach prosperity now and you can see them using the Bible to back up their ‘name it and claim it’ gospel on so many occasions..

John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”

Psalms 37:4 “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

Praise God = Get Paid is the formula they’re pushing.

But Rev. Fairley showed us that there are 3 steps required to getting our name ‘on that check’.

Haggai used the example of showing how holy flesh doesn’t ‘rub off’ onto others, but unclean flesh can contaminate healthy flesh. One rotten apple can ruin the whole barrel.

1st Step: Religion is no substitute for righteousness.

The people had begun rebuilding the temple, but when they compared the foundation and drawings to Solomon’s temple, they knew it wasn’t going to be as majestic as the previous temple. So they stopped working on the temple and went back to building their own personal houses and tending to their own private affairs.

They still loved God, but he had taken a backup spot to themselves.

God never intended to be the Pips to our Gladys Knight.

He didn’t ask to be the Blue Notes to our Harold Melvin.

He never wanted to be the Maze to our Frankie Beverly.

God is not a backup singer, he’s a lead. And until we put God first in our lives, we’re going to be stuck in idolatry.

2nd Step: Learn how to recognize and respond to the voice of the Lord.

That’s a hard one sometimes. Cuz every whacko preacher-prophet-apostle-priest that claims to be ‘speaking God’s Word’ ain’t.

There’s a lot of jank in the drank, when it comes to the exposition of the gospel.

That’s why Christians have the individual charge to study to show thyself approved unto God (II Timothy 2:15). You can never rightly divide without spending some time in prayer and Bible study for yourself.

Jesus was a lot more direct, because He knew, “My sheep know my voice.”

The 3rd and final step, is to learn how to totally rely on God.

Haggai let the Israelites know, that all those times of hard toil and labor with minimal return wasn’t necessarily because of ‘evil spirits’ or ‘bad luck’. Sometimes God limits our production as a way of chastising us towards obedience.

When parents don’t love their children, they let them run wild and do whatever. But when a parent truly loves their child, they chastise them and give them discipline. That’s how children are able to grow up and become responsible adults.

God wanted them to know that He didn’t care about the size or grandeur of what the new temple looked like. No matter how opulent, the temple would never shine without His presence anyway.

“Is the seed yet in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth; from this day will I bless you.”

Attending church services regularly is not the same as embracing Christ in your heart, the former is an effect of the latter.

A lot of people are living in spiritual confusion. Trying to follow 20 different televangelist/ministers all teaching 20 different doctrines. Calling Ms. Cleo, checking their horoscope, going to see a palm reader or have a pre-birth séance, buying prophesy cloths, it’s unlimited the amount of ‘game’ that is being circulated.

Bible study is a vital cog to the Christian way of life. There is no substitute for it.

I know I’m personally guilty of putting my own affairs before God. There is a balance to be reached between caring for your family and fulfilling God’s plan for your life.

Spending all your time and money at church when your wife and kids are hungry with no place to live is out of bounds.

“But if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel”. – I Timothy 5:8

It’s all just another step toward learning how to totally rely on God.