Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Building Wisely, Part 6

Good evening! I trust you are doing well and enjoying your summer. Vickie, Zach, and I are thoroughly immersed in everything that the Lord has prepared and laid before us. Our prayer is that you are fulfilled and satisfied in all that He has set your hand to as well!
In Matthew 7, Jesus taught about the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the foolish man who built on the sand. I want to draw a couple of parallels between those two builders. Both were building something. One was considered wise and the other foolish. In regard to this story, Jesus said, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine.” In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Both of them heard the sayings.” Yes, both of them heard the “sayings,” but only the wise man did what he was supposed to do. He did what he heard.  
What is the result of not doing what we hear? James said, “We deceive ourselves.” We think we’re doing something, but what we’re doing is not according to the will of God. Because when you’re doing what God wants you to do, you’re gonna be a’doin’ what God wants you to do!
Jesus said, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I liken him to a wise man who builds his house on the rock: the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall,” . . . WHY? . . . “Because it was founded on the rock.” Then Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these sayings of Mine,” (again, both of them heard) “and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
So we understand that to hear and to not do is to build foolishly. We can work just as hard in foolish building as in wise. In both cases the individuals heard, in both cases they built, in both cases they experienced the storm. They did not think it was strange when the storms came.
One thing that we’re old enough to know is that there are going to be storms in life. Just because we’re not going through some storm today doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to rain tomorrow.  We need to be careful how we judge others who are going through the storm, because how we judge others is the way we’re going to be judged. Jesus said that both of these men built, both of them heard, and both of them experienced some of the same things in life, but it was the one who built with wisdom that withstood the stress and the strain of the storms.
Along these same lines, another principle I’ve discovered in ministry is that time is the test, and the fruit is the proof. Time is the test. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, a lot of flash in the pan sensationalism, a lot of stuff in thirty years. Time is the test, and the fruit is the proof. What is the fruit?
Christ would have us remember how essential it is to produce fruit. I remind you again from John 15, we exist to glorify God, but how do we do that? Jesus said, “Herein is your Father glorified that you produce much fruit and that your fruit remain.” We are called to endure; we are called to produce fruit that endures, and if you were to go back and read John 15:2-8, you’ll see that Jesus really focused on fruit. He made it very clear that each of us is to bear fruit.
As I said a few weeks ago, you know what the reward for producing fruit is? You get pruned! Do you know the repercussion for not producing fruit? You get cut off! So here are our choices, Church. We either get pruned or cut off. Let’s go ahead and choose to get pruned. What is the purpose of the pruning? That you might bear more fruit! And then, after you produce more fruit, he says, “Continue in Me.” In other words, you go from producing more fruit to abiding more intimately in Christ, and as a result, He brings us to a place of producing much fruit! Then we begin to glorify the Father and our fruit remains. There’s a whole step-by-step process in those few verses that is quite outstanding to me. It all begins with the fact that we have been grafted into the vine; we are simply the branches, He’s the vine; we can do nothing without Him!
We can’t build anything to glorify God without Christ in our lives. All of this worldly stuff is going to perish. There’ll come a time that it will all be gone, but our fruit will remain. In it, God the Father will be glorified. Jesus said that such is the life of a disciple; He considers us to be disciples if we’re bringing forth fruit.
This is the last blog in the series of “Building Wisely”; I hope that it has been a blessing and caused you to reflect on your foundation and the continual building of your life. The important thing to remember is that if your findings aren’t quite up to par with where you should be, it’s not too late to change! God is so gracious to give us opportunity to repair the foundation or even to go in and totally rebuild.
I pray you have a great week ahead and make sure you take the time to enjoy your life in Him!
Grace and peace,

Monday, July 22, 2013

Building Wisely, Part 5

Greetings! We were so blessed to have had my son and daughter-in-law with us last week. It was a great time of ministry, and we’re seeing God do so much in our community. Thank you for praying for us!

We’ve been talking about building wisely. One of the questions we’ve addressed focuses on why we do what we do. A lot of us are capable of doing a lot of things . . . building a lot of buildings . . . starting a lot of programs . . . doing a lot of things that look good. Believe me, if all it took were money to do effective missions, Haiti should have been saved fifty years ago. Likewise, if all it took were toothpaste, food, or beans and rice, Haiti would be the “pearl of the Antilles” that it once was.

It’s not simply a matter of what we’re doing; it’s also how and why we do it. Here’s a standard of judgment that can be useful: Am I bringing glory to God, and am I bringing increase to His kingdom? I believe we should seek to glorify God in all things, and as laborers in His field, we should be seeking to bring increase to His kingdom. In order to do that, we’re going to have to build wisely.

I’d like us to consider 1 Chronicles 28:9. This passage is regarding King David, and as you know, he wanted to build a “house” for the Lord . . . a resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. God basically said, “No, I’ll give you the plans, but you’re not the one who’s going to build it because you’ve been a man of war and have shed blood.” But here’s what David says to Solomon, and I thought it was profound. David said, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father.”

Let me stop right there; I’m going to boast about one of my children for just a moment. I read a Facebook post the other day from my youngest daughter, Jessica. She said, “I want to thank my Daddy, Emory Goodman, for teaching me how to love God, love others, and live life to the fullest.” It brought tears to this old man’s eyes; it just really touched my heart. I thought to myself, “Wow, praise God, she got it!” Listen to me, parents, they’ll get it; trust me. They’re gonna get it! We are responsible to teach them to serve our God. It’s up to us to be sure we’re serving the right one!

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind.” That’s another sermon right there! Serve God with a loyal heart and a willing mind for the Lord searches all hearts. That’s not for you and I to do. We can’t do it no matter how good we think we are at it. Like I said before, half the time we don’t know what’s in our own hearts! Maybe that’s why we focus so much on the speck in our brother’s eye and don’t seem to notice the big ‘ol beam in our own.

The Lord searches all hearts and understands the intent of the thoughts. The Word of God is quick, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword even to the dividing asunder of the spirit from the soul, bone from the marrow, thoughts from the intents of the heart (derived from Hebrews 4:12).

If you seek Him, you will find Him. If you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. “Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it” (1 Chronicles 28:10).

I want to say this for those of you who are involved with the Lord’s work, which ought to be every one of us, regardless of vocation. Whatever God has called you to do, be strong and do it! Don’t be weak and quit. Get the job done! Finish well! You started good; finish well! You started on fire, don’t burn out. Keep the flame burning (that is on you to do). You can do that by encouraging yourself in the Lord on a regular, daily basis. Refresh your memory as to why you’re where you are and Who it is that has called you. Keep your eyes on the prize! Look beyond the cross. Be strong and do whatever it is that God has called you to do.

Vickie and I pray for you on a regular basis, and we are excited to see and hear what God is doing in your lives as you continue to build on Him!

Grace and peace,

Friday, July 12, 2013

Building Wisely, Part 4

Good morning, it’s a beautiful day here in the Dominican Republic! Pastor Josh and Amber are here visiting with us, and we are thrilled to have them!

We’ve been talking about building wisely in the last couple of blogs, and I want to continue talking about our foundation a bit more as it is so key to everything else that follows. We need to consider the foundation upon which we are building. Is Christ the foundation or something else? Christ is the Word of God, and the Word is the true foundation of success in God’s Kingdom. It is possible to have the right foundation and to still build incorrectly. Did you know that? Material in construction is very important!

As I was preparing and meditating on this, I thought back to my early days of missions work over in Haiti. My first assignment was to construct a building as that was my field of expertise. I had gone on a short-term missions trip through our church in Florida. We returned in February 1984 as we had decided to make a three-month commitment. Our project was to build the Haiti Discipling Center in Montrouis, Haiti. Praise be to God, it is still standing today, thirty years later! Whew, we had our doubts. Of course, those three months turned into five years. You have to watch those commitments!

Let’s get back to material. You know, you can have a secure foundation but still use the wrong material. You can build crooked walls even when you have a straight foundation. The type of block that you use in construction, especially in areas such as this, is very important! Over in Haiti there were two types of block: the handmade ones and then the ones they made in the factory over in Port-Au-Prince. The factory-made block always cost more, were harder to transport, and weighed more. Do you know why they weighed more? Because they had more cement in them!

In regard to the handmade block, some of them we made ourselves, and some we’d buy from Haitians on the side of the road. They would have them all stacked up. We’d go buy those blocks, and let me tell you, we may have thought they were cheaper, but in the end, they cost us more. Many times we would pick them up, and they’d crumble in our hands before we could even lay them! Something else we discovered was that many times the handmade block were not square, true, and plumb, and it was hard to build a straight wall with a crooked block! We’d pick them up and call them “banana blocks.” They would have curves in them.

We thought they were saving us money! Each one required such a level of effort to lay. I couldn’t help but think back to a saying, “It’s easier to do something right the first time than to go back and fix it.” Why? Because when you go back and fix it, it requires cleaning up a mess!

That is equally true in our Christian lives! If we would get things right the first time, we’d have fewer messes to clean up. I’m just saying. Sometimes I used to think that I was in the “ministry of messes.” I was always cleaning them up. You start cleaning up enough messes, and after awhile, you start to focus on doing it right in the first place. Teach your children well; we ought to teach them to do it right the first time. That’s a hard lesson to learn, and it’s equally difficult in our Christian walk. Why? Because we live in an age of “I want it quick” and self-gratification. We want the reward, and we want it now! Many times we’re looking for the easiest and cheapest way to do it.

When correct methods and materials are used, the potential for success grows exponentially. Paul reminds us that our work will be revealed and tried by fire. The wood, hay, and straw—we all have a portion of it—will perish. The gold, silver, precious stones—we all have a portion of that as well—will be of great value. All of us are going to experience reward and/or the loss of reward.

So we must keep in mind how we are building, and I want you think about this: man is capable of tremendous achievements. Just think back in history. Man is capable of building great towers to the sky. Man is capable of exercising tremendous control. He is capable of governing. He is capable of exercising great power in a diversity of ways. Motivation becomes the key factor: why we do what we do.

Let’s make a commitment to examine our hearts and lives and ask God to show us areas that might need a little cleaning up. I’m pretty sure there are places in which each of us could use the Holy Spirit’s winnowing fan to blow away the dust and reveal the block and mortar in our lives that could use a little fixing. 

Vickie and I pray that you have a blessed week!

Grace and peace,

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Building Wisely, Part 3

Greetings! Vickie and I have had a very productive week here in the Dominican Republic, and we pray all is going well in your lives, too. We have begun a new semester of Ministry Training School and have also had the opportunity to be involved with some exciting outreaches in our local community of Sosua. We’ll be sending out a ministry update in the near future.

For now though, I’d like to turn our attention back to the topic of the Foundational Principles of the Doctrine of Christ as found in Hebrews 6:1-2:
  • Repentance From Dead Works
  • Faith Toward God
  • Doctrine Of Baptisms
  • Laying On Of Hands
  • Resurrection Of The Dead
  • Eternal Judgment
These are essential truths regarded as being the doctrine of Christ. The writer says, “Let each one take heed.” In other words, give attention to this, believers! Pay attention to how you’re building! This is very important. In fact, I submit to you that our eternal rewards, or loss of such, depend upon how we build. I’m not talking about salvation; Paul makes that very clear. But all of our works will be judged, and we will be rewarded, or we will suffer loss of reward accordingly.

Paul is saying that he wants every believer to experience an abundant reward and to suffer a minimum of loss. I have to humbly confess to you that I am convinced I will suffer some degree of loss when I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. You know what? I’m going to find out that I’ve been wrong about some things. Oh, there is deliverance when you come to a place in your life—maybe it comes with being sixty—where you actually consider, “I could be wrong.” If you think you’re the only one in the room who’s right, then you’re wrong.
But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it” (1 Corinthians 3:10-13).
What Day? The Great Day of Judgment! Again, part of my responsibility lies in this: I am to remind folks that there is coming a day when each of us will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and we will each give an account for our lives.

In other words, we will be held accountable . . . not only for our actions, but also for our words. Our own words will either condemn us or bring us reward. That’s the teaching of Jesus! So be mindful of what you say. Don’t always be like me. Sometimes I don’t think until I’ve already said it, and then I shouldn’t have always said it! Am I the only one?

He says the fire will test each one’s work to determine what sort it is. So all of our works and how we have built them will be judged. Once again, note that he has said to take heed how we build not what we have built! Did you notice that? Take heed HOW you build. Not WHAT you build. What you build will be determined by how you build.  But how you build is not always determined by what you build.

I feel like I cannot emphasize that strongly enough. How we build is what motivates us. A lot of people can have the appearance of success, but in the end suffer tremendous loss.

14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).

We see rewards and loss; we’re not talking about salvation. If you are born again, you’re getting in! You’re qualified; the ticket’s been punched; you’re good. I’m not talking about salvation or eternal security. I’m talking about eternal rewards versus suffering the loss of reward.  Salvation is free. Heaven is free. Eternal life is free.

Rewards are EARNED! We don’t like that word in church. We don’t like to think of anything being earned. Well, if we don’t earn anything, don’t expect to get much! What we are rewarded with is determined by how we build. So we need to be mindful, not simply thinking about what we’re building, but how. Motivation is key.

We’ll continue this discussion next week. Thanks again for joining me! Your thoughts and prayers are always greatly appreciated, and Vickie and I pray for you as well.
Grace and peace,