Friday, April 30, 2010

Spiritual Health Exam #1

How many of us could honestly say these words are true of us: “Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering” (Psalm 26:1 NIV)? How many of us would like for them to be true?

Just as it is good to get periodic health exams from the doctor, we also need periodic spiritual health exams from the Lord. Psalm 26 is a great passage of scripture that we can use as a spiritual health exam. In fact, David writes in verse 2, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart” (Ps. 26:2 NKJV). Would you let God give you a examination over the next few days? Would you be honest with God and honest with yourself? Let the Lord examine your heart and your mind.

Here is the first test: God’s Love—Is my relationship with Him a priority?

In verse 3 he writes, “For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,…” The word “lovingkindness” can be translated “mercy; love; kindness; favor; beauty.” It describes the way that God relates to us. God is merciful to us in not counting our sins against us (2 Cor. 5:19). It was God’s love expressed in mercy and grace that saved us, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5).
God’s lovingkindness shown through Jesus Christ is the basis for my relationship with Him. Here’s the test: Is God’s lovingkindness, His relationship with me through Jesus Christ, “before my eyes”? Is my relationship with God a first priority? Is it always right in front of me? Is it my goal and my pursuit all day long?

What will help my love relationship with God?

How about a spiritual prescription?

Pick one or more of these verses of scripture and meditate on them today. See if they don’t help you pass the test:
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. (Psa 36:7 NKJV)

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. (Psa 40:11 NKJV)

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me; A prayer to the God of my life. (Psa 42:8 NKJV)

We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness, In the midst of Your temple. (Psa 48:9 NKJV)

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. (Psa 63:3 NKJV)

Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good; Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies. (Psa 69:16 NKJV)

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night, (Psa 92:1-2 NKJV)

I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. (Psa 138:2 NKJV)

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. (Psa 143:8 NKJV)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Altar

What should be the attitude of my daily quiet time with God? Romans 12:1-2 says we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God in an act of worship and service to Him. As I meditated on that scripture, I began thinking about giving an offering of myself to God. And this thought occurred to me: being a living sacrifice means that I am continually on the altar. I did some research on the Bible concept of an altar. And I found that many of the great saints of the Lord built altars:

Noah: (Gen 8:20 NIV) Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.

Abraham: (Gen 12:7 NIV) The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Isaac: (Gen 26:25 NIV) Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

Jacob: (Gen 33:20 NIV) There he (Jacob) set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

Moses: (Exo 17:15 NIV) Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.

Joshua: (Josh 8:30 NIV) Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel,

Gideon: (Judg 6:24 NIV) So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

David: (2 Sam 24:25 NIV) David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

Wherever Abraham went he built altars to the Lord God where he would worship Him (Genesis 12:7,8; 13:18). You want to know what Abram did after he had heard from the Lord? The Bible says that he built an altar unto the Lord. You see BEFORE you ever read about Abram doing great things for God, you read about him building an altar before the Lord. BEFORE you ever read about him becoming the father of a great nation, you read about him building an altar before the Lord. BEFORE you ever read about the mighty touch of God being on his life you read about him building an altar before the Lord.

All throughout the Bible, we read quite a bit about altars. The word is used over 400 times in the Bible. In fact the very first mention of the word “altar” in the Bible is in Genesis 8:20.  Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.(Gen 8:20 NIV)

After God had stopped the waters of judgment upon the earth and after the waters had abated from off of the earth, the Bible teaches that Noah built an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

In the OT, The Hebrew word for altar that is used most frequently is formed from the verb meaning “slaughter” and means literally, "a place of slaughter." Altars were used primarily as places of sacrifice just like Noah did, offering burnt offerings of animals to the Lord.

In the NT, the Greek word used for altar literally translates "place of sacrifice." The altar is the place where we offer ourselves in submission and service to God.

What is An Altar?
  • An Altar is a place that is designed or separated for worship unto God; a place of fellowship with God.
  • It is a place where praises and prayers are rendered unto God.  (Psa 43:4 NIV) Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
  • An Altar symbolizes holiness and represents the presence of God; a higher place where untarnished (spotless, blameless) services are offered to God.
  • Altar is a place of refuge and comfort from the troubles of this world.
  • An Altar could also be a place where intercession is being made for others inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  • The altar is a place where your life can be altered! Build yours today and lay yourself there as a sacrifice.

Now, we have an altar (Hebrews 13:10) which is in Christ! Through His blood we have access at any time to Him.

(Heb 13:10-16 NIV) We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Is Your All On the Altar?

You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.

Would you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His Word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay.

O we never can know
What the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul
He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.

Who can tell all the love
He will send from above,
And how happy our hearts will be made,
Of the fellowship sweet
We shall share at His feet,
When our all on the altar is laid.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Worship Is Not Just for Sundays

Worshipping together as the family of God is important. We gather on Sundays to worship God corporately (as the body of Christ). Scripture teaches the importance of worship in community. But all worship does not have to be with a group. The Bible also emphasizes our need for private worship. We can and must worship alone. “How?” you ask. “Don’t I have to go to church and let a minister lead in worship?”

Jesus visited with a woman who was confused about worship (John 4). Because worship is so central to our purpose as people, Jesus challenged her with some truths to clear up her confusion. One problem she had was the place of worship. The Jews taught that Jerusalem was the place to worship God. The Samaritans taught that Mt. Gerizim was the place. Jesus taught her that worship is not limited to a specific place. God is Spirit and therefore is not limited to one location. True worship takes place in our spirits. Therefore worship can take place anytime, anyplace.

You don’t have to be in a church building to worship. It may sound strange coming from a pastor, but some of my best times of worship have been when it was just me and God alone outside somewhere in the beauty of God’s creation.

As you come alone to face God in honest worship these simple pointers should help you (some of these are drawn from Broadman and Holman’s Disciple’s Study Bible).

1. Worship is a dynamic confrontation with the living God. It is dynamic because His power is experienced. It is a confrontation because worship brings us face to face with God. In many of the individual experiences of worship recorded in the Bible, people bowed to the ground or fell to the ground. True worship will bring feelings of reverence and humility.

2. You are encouraged to worship individually. The Bible tells us to come boldly before God’s throne to receive mercy and grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). We are commanded to “Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6).

3. You will encounter hindrances to worship—be ready! Distractions, Feelings, Ignorance, Fatigue.

4. God has given you helps for your worship.
  • Spirit – The Holy Spirit lives in all true believers. He is our helper in our prayers, worship, witness and work. He will convict us of our sin so we can confess it. He will make known to us God’s presence. He will strengthen our weaknesses. He will comfort our troubled hearts.
  • Truth – Since the Word of God is truth, the Bible is a great help in our worship. It reveals the nature, attributes, and expectations of the God we worship. Bible reading is a part of worship.
  • Faith – Faith enables us to enjoy God’s presence. Faith pleases God. Faith will prompt us to worship. Faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8) and comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).
 5. Components of individual worship.
  • Establish a time and place for worship – Individual worship can occur spontaneously any time you experience God’s presence in your life and respond to it. But having a regular scheduled time for worship will discipline you to recognize God in the rest of the day. Pick a place where you can worship aloud without disturbing others or being distracted.
  • Read God’s Word. Let God speak to you through His word. Then respond to God. Look for reasons to praise, confess, surrender, intercede, and rejoice.
  • Sing to God. Music communicated truth in a way that is easily received. It motivates us to worship and well as expressing our worship. Feel free to make your own joyful sounds before the Lord.
  • Praise God. Praise is adoring God because He is worthy.
  • Practice silence. Listen for God speaking to you.
  • Thank God. List specific reasons from your daily life experience to thank God.
  • Confess your faith and your sins. Confess what you believe as an act of worship. Confess your weaknesses to God and seek His strength. Confess your sins and find His forgivness.
  • Surrender your life to God.
My Bible reading and prayerful mediation on God’s word should lead me to worship God. As you study God’s Word and turn to worship, you need to be aware of the gods you are tempted to substitute for the true God.

People were made to worship. But what we find both in the scriptures and by experience is that people often worship the wrong things. The most important aspect of your worship is the object of your worship. WHO do you worship?

In many societies the wonders of the sun, moon, and stars prompted worship. The animal kingdom with its myriads of sizes and shapes has had its worshipers. The problem with worshipping these created things is that not only is it idolatry, but people have never been able to find true intimacy, love and acceptance from worshiping the created order. So according to Romans 1:21-25 people became guilty of creating their own gods and falling down before the work of their own hands (Isa. 2:8,20; 46:6). This was not a temporary trend. It is a fact of sinful human nature (Rom. 1:21-25).

Our adversary, the devil, does not want us to worship God. He even tried to get Jesus to turn his worship away from the living God (Matt. 4:9). The enemy still does not want us to worship. He knows the significance of worship in the life of a Christian. He will spare no effort to distract, deceive, and distort to keep us from true worship. We should expect struggle and resistance as we worship the living God.

Enjoy your time worshiping God today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sword Training

What will help you to overcome the temptations and trappings of the world? What will help you to recognize false teachings?

The last two Sunday mornings we have looked at “Testing the Spirits” from 1 John 4:1-6. We found that the truth of scripture in the Bible is one of the criteria by which we test the spirits of the prophets (or preachers and teachers). If we do not read, study, pray over, and meditate on God’s Word we set ourselves up to be deceived. When we are deceived we more easily fall prey to the temptations of the world.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Jesus quoted this scripture (from Deut.8:3) when He was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. He knew that the Word of God is a powerful weapon against the world, the flesh and the devil. Paul urges us in Ephesians 6:17 to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Rhema is the Greek term for “word” both in this verse and in Matt. 4:4. A rhema is an utterance, a saying, a spoken word. We need to know God’s written word so well that we can speak it whenever we are tempted or whenever someone tries to deceive us.

So what is your plan for studying God’s word? Do you have a consistent strategy for reading the Bible and memorizing portions of it? I encourage you to do the following:
  1. Set a specific time aside daily for prayerful Bible reading.
  2. Decide on a course of study (where in the Bible will I start and how much to I plan to read each day).
  3. Pick a verse each week and try to memorize it (write it down; post it where you will see it daily; say it to yourself constantly; pray it to God).
  4. Follow through on your commitment and ask someone to hold you accountable.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who is Richard Sipes?

I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I serve as pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Grand Junction, CO. Ours is a small church (about 45 in Sunday School, 55 in worship most Sundays). We are a Christ-honoring, Bible-teaching, people-loving church. New Covenant Baptist Church cooperates with the SBC as a Southern Baptist Church.

I grew up actively attending church (United Methodist) but was not saved until I was an adult. As a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy I heard and believed the gospel message at the Baptist Student Union (BSU). By the grace of God through Jesus Christ I was born again in May, 1982. I then followed the Lord in baptism and joined a Southern Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, CO.

My wife, Kathy, and I met at BSU and were married in 1984 after my graduation from the Academy. She has been my partner in life and in ministry ever since. We are both deeply devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His church. From 1984 to 1990 we served the Lord at Mission Hills Baptist Church in Lompoc CA while I was an officer in the USAF. In 1987, God called Kathy and I into vocational Christian service. God has given me the calling and the passion to serve as a pastor in His church. I served bivocationally as associate pastor at Missions Hills until 1990 when I separated from the military.

We went to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City from 1990-93 where I received a valuable education (MDIV) and gained ministerial experience. While still at seminary, Calvary Southern Baptist Church in Gardner, Kansas called me to be their pastor. The Lord has allowed me to serve Him using the spiritual gifts of preaching, teaching, encouraging, and administration. I enjoyed loving and leading this wonderful family of believers for 18 years. While we were there the Lord brought many to salvation in Jesus Christ and many believers grew in faith and in service to the Lord.

Kathy and I have three children: Heather, 24; Becca, 22; and Ricky 15. both our daughters still live in Kansas, Ricky lives here with us. Oh, we also have a dog, ChiCHi--half-Chihuahua, half-Dachshund, does that make him a chi-weiner dog?

Since coming to New Covenant in Grand Junction I already have begun to see how God is working among His people and how He can work through us to reach people in the Grand Valley with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Our church is a great family of believers who care about each other and about those who need to know Jesus.

I love the local church and am strongly committed to working through the church to win the lost to Jesus Christ and to disciple believers. I am committed to preaching and teaching the Holy Scriptures as the inspired Word of God and to living out its principles daily. My favorite preaching style is verse-by-verse exposition with practical application for daily living. I believe that the pastor's ministry is to equip the members of the Body of Christ to serve one another in the church and to reach their community and world with the Gospel. I am committed to the Southern Baptist cooperative program and giving to support missions and participating in mission work locally and around the world.

The Lord has called me to love Him by loving His people and feeding His flock. My primary goal in life is to know God through His Son Jesus Christ and to glorify and serve the Lord with all my heart.

That is just the beginning of my story. God is writing the rest as I daily walk with Him.