SERMON FLIPSIDES: In my message on October 18 I talked about how God is spirit and thus invisible, without boundaries or limits(John 1:18, 4:24; I John 4:12). I made the statement that because God is not confined to one place, and genuine worship is not based on location, that it is thus possible to commune with the Lord and praise Him on the golf course or in a boat on the lake or in a cabin in the mountains on Sunday mornings. One does not have to be in a church building. God is omnipresent and can receive our worship anywhere. But now let me qualify that so as not to be misunderstood! If one just uses that truth as a convenient excuse for avoiding faithful church attendance, and gets out in those natural settings and thinks of a thousand other things than God, and is not intentional about spending time with Him, then this insight has been misinterpreted and misapplied. Elijah had perhaps his greatest encounters with the Lord in the outdoors(1 Kings 18 and 19) but he was focused on spiritual realities while there. And don't forget that even though it might actually enhance our closeness to God to occasionally worship Him out among the trees and flowers and hillsides and singing birds, we are commanded to regularly assemble with other believers in corporate praise and fellowship and instruction(Hebrews 10:25). Not to do so is sin.
In my October 25th sermon from Luke 14:7-14, I preached about the comments of Jesus on humility. At a banquet He was attending He noticed the jockeying for position and the rush to get the best seats and the attempts to be seen at prominent tables with popular people. He warned that it could prove ultimately embarrassing to stake out the front, head- table, most- noticed dining spots if you subsequently had to be reassigned to a more obscure part of the banquet hall. It would be far better to go in to the affair humbly, quietly, unobtrusively, and pick a back corner seat and perhaps be pleasantly, serendipitously surprised by the host's invitation to move closer to more choice accomodations. Jesus is making the point that we should live with such inner contentment and healthy self-esteem that we don't have to be first in line or recognized or applauded or seen hobnobbing with the most glamorous people in order to feel good about ourselves. The kingdom principle is that humility(not prized much in our culture) usually leads to promotion or exaltation. But here's a caveat. Don't see this teaching from Jesus as discouraging us, in the proper settings, from getting seats near the front! If you're in a tour group, stand as near to the guide as possible, so you can hear the information and ask questions. In school, sit up in the front of the classroom to avoid distractions and to glean as much knowledge as possible. And...here it comes. In church take your seat in one of those first 4 or 5 front pews so you can be fully engaged in all that's going on!
READING TIPS: June Hunt's book, How To Handle Your Emotions(Harvest House, 2008) deals with anger, fear, grief and depression from a scriptural basis. It offers clear, helpful counsel. Healing The Scars Of Emotional Abuse(Revell, 2009) by Gregory Jantz discusses how to recover from the various types of abuse we may have experienced in the past and how to handle the negative stuff we sometimes get from other people in the present. Tim Keller's new work, Counterfeit Gods(Dutton, 2009) is about the idols we make of money, sex, and power, and how they can never satisfy the hungry soul.
CHRISTMAS PRESENTS: If you're going to buy a new Bible as a yuletide gift for a friend or family member this year, let me encourage you to purchase a study edition so that helpful explanatory notes can be found alongside the text. My recommendations? Either the new Transformation Study Bible(David C. Cook, 2009) with its great notes from Warren Wiersbe or The ESV Study Bible(Crossway, 2008). Both are rich treasures!
THANKS! You made Pastor Appreciation Month so special for me.