Don’t forget the sunscreen

Titus 3:3-7 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Remember summer?  It was warm, the kids played outside, and the BBQ was being used on a regular basis.  That was nice.  And you know that two week period in which you had to wear sunscreen?  That was good too, except when you accidentally got too much sunscreen on your hands.  It’s a dilemma, isn’t it?  You couldn’t just put more on because your skin was already slimy from what you put on.  So you had to find someone to share it with.  You wipe some on your kids faces, your spouses back… all to get it off your hands and not waste any. That’s what happens when you squeeze the bottle too generously.

You know what? God squeezed the Holy spirit bottle pretty generously as well.  That’s what it says in Titus 3.  It says that the Holy Spirit was poured out generously through Jesus Christ.  He didn’t hold back.  He didn’t tease us with a little drop.  He didn’t give us just enough to avoid a sunburn on our nose.  He poured out so much that we could lather our whole bodies in it.  And when you are covered, you don’t get burned.  Yet so many Christians just stand there with the Holy Spirit Sunscreen in their hands and never put it on.  They never lather up!  He gave a generous amount, enough to cover all of you… and even enough to share some with your friends.

Isn’t God good!?  He gave us His Spirit generously.  But there’s something you need to know.  It’s the same thing that you see on bottles of sunscreen.  “Reapply.”  You know how it says to reapply after 4 hours?  We’ve got to reapply His Spirit, too.  It’s not a one and done kind of filling.  This is a lifestyle of asking Him to pour out His Spirit.  If you’ve ever vacationed in a hot place like the south, you know how important it is to reapply that sunscreen.  I do it religiously.  If only I was that religious about reapplying His Spirit.  If only I lived every minute of my life making sure I’m covered, maybe I wouldn’t get burned.

Just say “no”

Titus 2:11-14 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

You don’t have to teach a child to say “no.”  Have you noticed that?  They are naturals at it.  The problem is that they aren’t naturals at saying no to the stuff that will hurt them.  You actually have to train them to say no to those things.  Say no to drugs, say no to being mean, say no to sin.  Our flesh says “yes” before we even know what hit us!

It’s no different for Christians, either.  But for some reason, we think that when we get saved, it will happen automatically.  It doesn’t, does it?  In this chapter of Titus, Paul says that the grace of God teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions.  Yes, we have to learn to say “no.”

We’ve got to stop wallowing around in our self-pity wondering why we couldn’t resist the temptation.  We have got to stop wearing condemnation like a blanket because we failed.  We better stop trying to figure out what is terribly wrong with us.  I’ll to you what’s wrong with you: you didn’t say “no.”  And you need to learn how to.  Say it with me, just two small letters – n……o……. no.  You can do it friends.  When temptation comes, learn to say no. When the enemy tries to drag you down the wrong path, say no.  It’s not an automatic; you have to choose it.  So choose it today and see what happens.


Titus 1:16  They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Windbag: a talkative person who communicates nothing of substance or interest.  In other words, there are a lot of words coming out of the mouth, but the words have no significance.  It’s just talk, meaningless chatter.   Nobody like a talker who talks with no substance.  You know those people who seem to like to hear themselves talk?  The ones who are enamored with the sound of their own voice?  Worse than just talking, however, is talk without any action to back it up.

For example, politicians who make grand speeches and don’t deliver on promises.  Or athletes who tout a forthcoming victory and then play the game like they’ve spent the last 20 years sitting on a couch.  Talk is cheap.  But action is a precious commodity.  We all wish there was more of it in this world.  There seems to be plenty of demand but a shortage of supply.

Here’s the thing: God’s not fond of Christian windbags.  He doesn’t get real excited about people who claim to know him, but deny him with their lives.  In fact Paul writes that these windbags are unfit for doing anything good.  You see, when your life doesn’t match your spoken beliefs, you undo your message.  You become unbelievable; you can’t be taken seriously… you are a windbag.  Because the world is watching to see if you really believe what you believe.  They are waiting to see if it makes it past your lips, into your heart, and out of your hands.  We are called to be a people of action.  So no more wind bagging please.  Line up your whole life with who you say He is!

In need of repair

Amos 9:11 In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent.  I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be…

Israel fell and fell hard.  They turned away from the Lord and worshiped other gods.  He was no longer the center of their life, their great and mighty king.  Yes, Israel blew it.  It became broken, a place of ruins. And because of it, the wrath of God, His justice, would be poured out on them.  No God did not tolerate sin, He moved to remove it.  For He desired a holy people, set apart for Him.  The garbage had to go; sin needed to be destroyed.

Amidst the impending destruction and wrath, we see the God of mercy and restoration.  We see His love for His people and the desire to restore them.  That’s what is so remarkable about our God. He is a God of restoration.  Even though David’s tent (family) had fallen, He promised to restore it.  Even though the nation was full of brokenness, He promised to repair it.  Even though it lay in ruins, He would rebuild it into something great.

It is the same with you and I, friends.  When our lives had fallen short, God in His great mercy came and lifted us up.  He restored our houses and filled our lives with His grace.  He searched out the broken places and repaired them in a way only He can.  He found our places of ruin and promised to rebuild us into a holy people.  And He is still at it today.  He is still finding my brokenness and healing me with His loving kindness.  To this day, He sees my places of ruin and with His great love and mercy, gives me the courage and strength to be rebuilt.    I don’t have to live a life in ruins!  For I serve a God who can and will make all things new!

Captain Obvious

Amos 8:1-2  This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. “What do you see, Amos?” he asked.  “A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.  Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

God is patient, isn’t He?  And polite, too.  Here in Amos 8, God shows Amos a vision of ripe fruit and asks him what he sees.  Amos, in all his wisdom and insight says “ripe fruit.”  Now it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.  God could have said something back like, “thanks Captain Obvious, of course you see ripe fruit – that’s what I showed you.”  But God is patient, kind, and understands the depth potential of the human brain.  So rather than giving Amos a big ‘ol duh, He proceeds with what He was actually trying to “show” Amos.

Has God ever showed you something that you just didn’t get?  It has certainly happened to me.  And when I look back, I can easily say, “oh that’s what God was trying to show me!”  But like Amos, we don’t always get it.  We miss the deeper meaning because our eyes are stuck on the surface.  Our eyes are stuck on the object rather than the meaning behind it.  It’s true isn’t it?  We get hung up on stuff.  We think so shallow that we miss the depth of our God.

When God speaks, we ought to be asking Him what He is really saying.  Otherwise we might miss it big time.  We see a bowl of fruit and think God wants us to buy a banana.  Instead, let’s ask Him what that means.  If He shows you something you don’t understand, press in to him a little more.  God wanted to show Amos more than fruit, He wanted to give him a word of prophecy to carry to the nation.  What kind of things is He showing you?


I don’t like it, but I’m listening

Amos 7:12-13 12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

The priest didn’t care for the prophet much. He thought that Amos was speaking prophetic smack against Judah.  What he didn’t know was that Amos had been crying out to God for mercy on behalf of them.  Every time God gave him some warning to give them, he pleaded with God to spare them.  But God had finally made up his mind.  It was time to hold Judah to the standard.  No longer would He let them wiggle out of following His commands.  The bar had been set, the line drawn.  And as Amos shared this word from the Lord with Judah, the priest didn’t care for it.  His response?  Go away Amos!

We tend to avoid things we don’t want to hear don’t we?  Whether it is a criticism or some negative feedback, we’d rather not know.  If it’s bad news, let’s just skip it and get to the good news.  But there’s no sense in avoiding a message from God.  When the Holy Spirit reveals something in us that He wants to work on, we should pay attention.  Too often, we continue to live in denial and shut out the very voice who is trying to help us.  We ignore the prodding of the Lord because it might just be too  difficult to obey His commands. 

Just like Amaziah should have, we ought to be paying attention.  God will bring us warnings not for the purpose of being mean, but to refine us.  He will bring us correction when we are on the wrong path to spare us, not hinder us.  Even if it’s bad news, our response should be: “Ok Lord, I don’t like it – but I’m listening.  I am willing to hear what You have to say.  I am open to receiving Your correction.  Refine me Lord.  I’m scared, but I’m ready.”  That’s an honest prayer.  And it’s the place where true life begins.

Whoa! Or is it woe?

Amos 6:1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! 

Whoa there tiger! Hang on for a second, put on the brakes.  You’ve got to stop and hear this for a minute.  Ready?  God said “woe.”  When God says woe you should probably pay attention.  Now woe doesn’t mean wow or awesome or sweet.  It means: WARNING.  That’s right – warning, watch out, I know where you sleep.  When God says woe, He isn’t happy and certainly not pleased.  So what was the woe all about in Amos 6:1?

The people were complacent, feeling secure that they were God’s chosen ones.  They went about life their own way forgetting the commands of the Lord.  They started getting lazy about the sacrifices and the worship.  Worshiping idols didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  Sin came easy and cheap.  What’s the big deal, really?  After all, aren’t we God’s chosen.  It’s not like anything bad is going to happen to us.  This, my friends is what I will call “flawed thinking.”

Flawed thinking creates a false sense of righteousness.  It produces grace mongers – people who keep on sinning without restraint because God will certainly forgive.  The woe to Israel was exactly about that.  God had poured out his favor (grace) on Israel but they were abusing it.  They felt very secure when they shouldn’t.  Because you shouldn’t feel secure when you intentionally walk outside of God’s protection.  In the Old Testament, His protection accompanied obeying His commands.  Today, it is accompanied by relationship (which usually will lead you to obeying His commands).  So get in relationship with Him today.  If you are complacent, get up on your feet and put some action to your faith.  If you are a grace monger, repent and actually start striving to walk away from your sin.  Walk in all His ways today and find life and security in His presence.

Hate evil. Not people.

Amos 5:14-15 

14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.

Be good, drive safe, mind your manners.  We say these kinds of things to people in hopes that they will be good.  God tells us these kinds of things, too.  He wants us to seek good and not evil.  He desires that we fill our thoughts, our lives with good.  And of course the only real things that are good are found in Him.  He wants to be our source of life and the dwelling place of our minds.

In Amos 5, He starts with language that says to seek good, but then goes on to instruct us to love it… even to the point of hating evil.  Now I hate evil as much as the next person, but I think we’ve got a little issue going on with the “hate evil” concept.  For some reason, this idea so often turns us on people.  An example from popular culture: I despise the murder of children.  I really do.  I don’t like it one bit.  In fact, I hate it.  But when Christians take it upon themselves to kill an abortion doctor, they have just crossed a very serious line.  The Bible does not instruct us to hate people, but rather evil.

Some Christians turn their hatred on people whose lifestyles they would consider evil.  God didn’t ever tell us to do that.  In fact, hating people who are in sin is just as despicable as the sin you are hating.  Here’s an idea, start by hating the evil in your own life and do something about it.  Ask God to refine you and to turn your heart toward good and toward love.  Once you have started dealing with yourself, begin to pray against the evil one who is deceiving the world.  Pray for those in bondage and sin.  Contend for those whose lives are contaminated, lost, and hopeless.  Yes, hate that evil!  Fight against it with holy fervor.  Just make sure to love people in the process.

I crush you

Amos 2:13-16 13 “Now then, I will crush you
    as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.
14 The swift will not escape,
    the strong will not muster their strength,
    and the warrior will not save his life.
15 The archer will not stand his ground,
    the fleet-footed soldier will not get away,
    and the horseman will not save his life.
16 Even the bravest warriors
    will flee naked on that day,”
declares the Lord.

Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? It doesn’t?  Isn’t our relationship with God supposed to be filled with happy warm feelings, euphoria, mountain tops, bunny rabbits, and ice cream?  Hmmm… maybe that’s the wrong god.  While our relationship with God should be fulfilling and full of love, it’s not just about mushy stuff.  God isn’t entirely mushy.  If anyone in the relationship has mush potential, it’s us – because He could crush us if He wanted.

Why oh why am I writing such an encouraging message this morning, you ask?  First of all, it’s in the Bible so I thought that was a good start.  And it’s in the Bible because there is a message for us here.  In the book of Amos, God was warning the nations of His mighty power.  No one was going to be getting away with their junk because God was fed up with it.  So he told them what they did and then told them about His power and plans to use it.  You see, human strength cannot withstand the power of the Lord.

I repeat: human strength cannot withstand the power of the Lord.  And while this may freak us out, that’s not the only reason for this message.  It should freak us out, however.  The fear of the Lord is an important aspect of our relationship.  It keeps us from being grace mongers… you know, sinning on purpose because you know He’ll forgive you anyways.  That’s what Paul calls abusing the grace of Jesus Christ.  Let’s not do that.

But more than freak us out, His power should cause us to be in awe of His greatness.  He promised that He would fill us with his Holy Spirit and that Spirit of the Living God contains His freakish power.  That’s why sometimes people fall over in His presence – their bodies just can’t take it.  And it is in that power that you can have victory over the evil one.  It is in that power that you can live life in the spirit rather than in the flesh.  So let His power crush your fleshly desires today so that you can truly come alive in Him.