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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Sermon – Don’t Fool Yourself

Romans 2:17-24

We have to be on guard here because ironically the very thing Paul is talking about to the Jews, hypocrisy, can happen to us as we study this passage. We can be hypocritical by looking down at the Jews for being hypocritical, and the truth here is that Paul is indicting all hypocrisy. He is just using the Jews as an example because they had the Law and knew God’s commands on a more intimate level than those that only had creation and conscience and so forth.

Today we have the benefit of the Bible, and therefore Paul would be speaking to any of us today who are hypocritically self righteous, comparing ourselves to others (2 Corinthians 10:12) and especially back at the Jews (Romans 10:20-23), boast in Christ (Galatians 6:14). Anti-Semitism is rampant in the world as it has always been. How easy it would be to turn this passage into an ethnic slur. It is not that. Paul himself was a Jew, all the apostles were Jews, and Jesus was a Jew (Romans 9:3, 10:1). It is about the fact that all people need the gospel.

He has shown that the Gentiles aren’t good enough, he has shown the moralists that they aren’t good enough, and now he is showing the Jews that they aren’t good enough, that they of all people should be the most moral but that they too are still falling short of God’s standard. Like the Jews, we dumb down the standard to a level we think we make and then cast our eyes in scorn on those less than that supposed standard. But God’s standard is perfection. Applying this today we would say not to talk about how pious you are in the areas that you aren’t tempted in. “I’ve never said a word of profanity in my life.” Don’t fool yourself, you still spew slander, malice, hypocrisy and pride out of the same pure mouth; how about giving up your gossip?”

Now remember we talked extensively before from Romans 2:1-3 about judging, and we are supposed to judge, that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about self-righteous hypocrisy. We are to judge, and we are to realize that we have given ourselves to the Savior instead of giving ourselves over to sin: the good works that follow do not save us but they are a sign that we are saved; they are not the root but the fruit of our relationship with God. We may still commit acts of unrighteousness, but our lives are not characterized by an unbroken pattern of unrighteousness. Believers know that we need a Savior, it is those who think they are righteous and do not need a Savior and those who judge based on their own worth rather than Christ’s worth who will be in trouble. These people are fooling themselves, like the Jews were.

17 – They were called out people, and they acted like it. Now if you are a Jew, if you rely on the law, if you boast in the true God. If you are in the band, know the tune, and sing the song.

18 – they approve of what is excellent because they are taught; we know that Paul thinks this is good, because he prayed for others to be like this as well (Philippians 1:10). They know what is right. Knowledge is good. You’ve played the instrument before, because you’ve been to practice.

19-20 –They know they are right. Confidence is good. They knew what to teach, they had the truth, and they knew it. Teaching is good. You are sure you can teach others to play.

21-22 – Much of rabbinical Judaism of Paul’s day interpreted the law so that they thought they were completely justified by the law. When Paul asks these questions, some of the Jews would say no, they don’t do these things, but Jesus exposed the error of such interpretations (Matthew 5:19-48). God applies His law to both our actions and our attitudes. Sometimes we only want our attitudes evaluated, and sometimes only our actions. God will hold us accountable for both motives and actions. James 2:13 / James 4:17 / remember last time – no secret sins / Galatians 5:19-21 / 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – are you really walking in light? Don’t fool yourself.

Then how come your play so poorly, how come it sounds so bad, why do you hit so many wrong notes, why is your timing so off?

23-24 – the main point of our text today / Isaiah 52:5 / so you have the law, so what? If you have privileges that makes it worse not better if you do not use them as you should. You have the advantages but you are still falling short. You are fooling yourselves.

You talk about being a great musician, and how good this piece of music is, but you sound awful. You are an embarrassment to the composer and the conductor.

Paul is not trying to get them to be more moral, he is trying to get them to see that no one is without hypocrisy, some more so than others, of course, but all are guilty when it comes to doing what is right. We tell others what is right, and we actually believe what we say, but we also fall short. This doesn’t let anyone off the hook, though; just because everyone does it doesn’t mean its right, and it doesn’t mean that God excuses it, He does not. That’s the point, and we are without hope if we are without a savior.

Now the answer is not to stop preaching against stealing, lying, hypocrisy and sin, just because we have done it or are doing it, the idea is to preach against it but also to preach Christ as the answer to it. Why do we still preach against the very things we have been guilty of? Why, because God wants us to that’s why. Because these things are wrong that’s why. Because we all need help and we need to know that we can’t make it without Christ, that’s why. Because we should be reminded that these things are not in the character of God, not in the will of God, and not what God wants for us and that we should be ridding ourselves of these things, that’s why. It is not like you have to be perfectly morally pure in order to speak out against sin, what you need to be is on Repentance Road, and using the standards of the Word of God, that person has the authority to speak to issues. I may not be perfect, and I may have had certain sins, and I may still have much sin, but I can and should and must still speak out against sin. If you are on the repentant road, you have the right, and the obligation to preach about sin. Just make sure you preach Christ as well.

Paul said he was not perfect, that he had not arrived, but that sin was still exceedingly sinful, and that he was forgetting what was behind and pressing on to Christ. These Jews of Paul’s day were looking around saying, “yeah society stinks, they are all rotten and on the road to hell”, to which Paul is saying back to them, “yeah, you are right, but hey, you guys, you have the law, the right moral code, and yet you do some of the same things too, so what does that make you, it is actually a little worse isn’t it? Today, many claim the name but they dishonor and shame, and with the lives they lead they show they aren’t led. Don’t fool yourself.

As Christians we are often the same way they were. Trying to change society without changing men’s hearts is hypocrisy. Most just talk about how good we are and how bad society is, or just talk about how bad society is, which is still implying the same thing, that we are not. Well they are not regenerate, what do you expect them to do, they may have common grace, so it is not as bad as it could be, but they do not have saving grace, they are not regenerated, they are not born again, and that is what they need. We don’t need reformation we need transformation. Efforts at social harmony should not neglect the importance of changing human hearts. Trying to change society without renewing our own minds is hypocrisy as well. Don’t fool yourself.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use our votes to try and change the political landscape; it means that we need to be realistic, and spiritually minded as to what ultimately are the most important things. What is more important, the Ten Commandments and prayer in schools, or going out and witnessing to someone, and living the gospel yourself? Yes, we need to preach sin, judgment, hell, and all that, and this is indeed what Paul is doing, but amidst the bad news, we must also give the good news of the gospel, which is where Paul started and where Paul is headed.

Yes, Paul sure does spend a lot of time on why we are all so bad, but he will spend much more time on why Christ is so good. You know, don’t you just get sick and tired of people who point out all the problems of society but don’t give any answers they just blame “the other guy”? Well that is what Paul is saying not to do, don’t be like these Jews and moralists, and those like them today that just point out the evil, point them to the good, and it isn’t you, it is Jesus. Lets not be like the rest of the world, lets not just point at the problem without offering a solution, and the ultimate solution, and indeed, the only solution for your salvation is Jesus Christ.

To some Paul would say, “You say you are giving God the glory He is due but by your actions you do not.” The cause of Christ suffers in a sense because you don’t live the gospel, and live as Christ would have you live, and live as you will in heaven. You don’t try, you don’t care about sin in your own life, and you defile the name of Christ and treat salvation as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29-39). Some aren’t doing all the immoral things, but they aren’t giving glory to God, either. They are not humbled before the Master. Rebellion Road has all kinds of moral people on it. Paul is saying that we need to be holy, yes, but we must also be humble. We need to have the right sort of confidence, not in ourselves but in God, and this sort of confidence acts in accordance with what Christ has done, and what Christ would have us do, which is to lead increasingly holy, and yet increasingly humble lives. Don’t fool yourself.

The Jews were fooling themselves. Knowledge of God rightly understood brings humility, not pride, which is what was happening to certain Jews and moralists. We are brought low so that God may be brought high. When you see the depths of our depravity compared with the heights of His holiness, then you can begin to see the measure of God’s love to us. Holy and humble, we must be both: don’t fool yourself.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mission Field

be ready always to give an answer, to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you
(1 Peter 3:15)

Once again, all your prayers for my father in law, JR, who had a major stroke last week, are very much appreciated. He was left paralyzed on his left side, but is getting more and more movement every day. Every single one is making a difference. Let me prove that by telling you about today. The Providence of Our Awesome God is truly wonderful.

1) We have been telling you about his witnessing there in the rehab hospital, and Monday he spoke to a woman who had never heard of being saved. JR used the little Gideon New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs to show this woman her sin and her Savior. Well, today that same woman, Laurie, said she believed that Jesus rose from the dead and that she wanted Christ to save her and be her Lord! Hallelujah!

2) As I arrived today for an unannounced visit, I was coming to the front and lo and behold, my mother in law Marge was just leaving. She looked so thrilled to see me, and I asked her if she was leaving for home. She said no, she was going to go buy JR a robe, and so I tagged her hand and said, “my turn, tag, I’m it”. His wife, two of his daughters, his friends at the church, and his pastor have all been keeping him company, and he said he knows and appreciates all the prayers. I have told him several times about all our friends all over the world in the blogosphere who are praying. It is so good to know of people with like, precious faith.

3) JR has been talking to several of the staff and patients about Jesus, but he could not give any of them, including Laurie, a Bible, because the only one he had with him was that little Gideon NT. He likes that one because in his condition it is easier to use, and it has a “plan of salvation” in the back. Well, I remembered as he told me this that last week I had been cleaning out the closets at the church, and we had several brand new, never used Bibles exactly like this one he had, same size, same color and all! I told him I would go by the church on the way home, and he would have them tomorrow. God is so good.

JR, since he retired, and since he pretty much stays around Christians only, has not been able to witness like he used to on the job sites (he was/is a Master electrician). He said to me today (and had done so Monday as well) that God had him here to answer his prayer for a mission field, a chance for more fruit at this stage in his life. He had a purpose, and what can I say about that but to God be all the glory…

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

For His Name

…to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name…
(Romans 1:5 – ESV)

It is all about Jesus – anything that has as its focus something other than the person of Jesus Christ, His atoning work, and our becoming like Him is not from God. No matter how right it may seem, and how much it sounds like the real thing or how much it talks of Jesus, if the primary focus is something else, it is a distraction, which leads to diversion, and ultimately to deception. No work you do for God that comes from your own power will survive the judgment seat of Christ and anything good but not for him is of no eternal worth either.

This includes partnering with non-Christians of other faiths for “the common good”. The common purpose may seem right, however, it is not done for the name of Christ but for the good of men. It is certainly right and good to help hurting people, of course, but there are limits. The church is not to be a “partner” with government and business to help eradicate society’s ills; that is the old social gospel of the early twentieth century. When an effort places the gospel as being secondary in importance to other needs, even if they are real and epidemic it is wrong. The most important thing is a person’s soul, and to set the gospel aside in order to work with non-believers is to deny Christ. A watered down gospel is no gospel at all. We may work with them for noble purposes, yes, but if it means that we have to silence our voice about the gospel then no, no matter how pressing the need.

The true gospel offends people. It reminds us that we are fallen creatures in bondage to sin and on our way to hell apart from God and His offer of salvation in Christ. It reminds us not to expect popularity in the world when we are true to His Word. Instead we are called to follow His narrow, difficult road, no matter what the cost.

Look at what Jesus said in John 15:18-21 – If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

In contrast to this, deeds done in the name of humanity will win the world's approval. So will a gospel cleansed of offensive truth, and focused on man's worth rather than God's righteousness.

The gospel cannot be partnered with the world – 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NKJV) – For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. You are an offensive smell to either God or the world; you cannot be a pleasing aroma to both. For His name, choose the sweet odor of death to self and life to God.


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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Sermon: There Are No Secrets

Romans 2:11-16

In verses 4-10 we saw that the Jews and the Gentiles are in the same boat. It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or Gentile; all persons are going to be judged according to the same standard. That standard is perfection. No amount of goodness by any individual in history is enough to justify them. No one has been or will be holy enough to merit eternal life; only Christ was and is perfect. He was showing us once again the need for the gospel. The eternal life of everyone depends on the kindness of God, not our goodness. But it is not something we can presume upon. He gives it to those whom seek it with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Everyone learns to avoid the ultimate issue but we must all address the ultimate issue.

Vs.11 – No partiality, those who do not have the law as a written code are being judged according to the same standard as those who do have that revelation. Colossians 3:25 / Hebrews 6:2 / Ephesians 6:9 / Acts 10:34 and other verses bear witness to the fact that God is just, and that He is no respecter of persons. It cuts both ways, to those that are great, it isn’t enough, and to those that aren’t it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who your parents are. It doesn’t matter what race you are or what country you are from. It doesn’t matter what tribe you are or what sect you belong to, or your social status. It doesn’t matter how good you family history is. It doesn’t matter what degree you hold or what job you do. It doesn’t matter how successful or hard working you are. It doesn’t matter how good you try to be, or how much good you do. If anyone could lay claim to pleasing God by law keeping and the works of the flesh, it was Paul. But he knew that we are all born into the kingdom of men, but we must be born again into the kingdom of God (Galatians 3:26). All will be judged with absolute justice, and all need God’s mercy.

For Christians, the justice of God’s judgment fell upon Christ, and we have received mercy (Isaiah 53 / James 2:13, keep your place here). We are not to show partiality either (James 2:9) we are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). God is the one who gives recognition, look to Him not to man, He sees what you are doing in secret. Men may not see your works, but they are open to God (Hebrews 4:13). This is also why we do not seek vengeance, because God is the one to whom they are ultimately responsible (Romans 12:19 / Hebrews 10:30).

Vs.12 – The law is not a secret code from God – those that do not have the law still have the ideals of the law written on their consciences, and yet no one obeys it. Paul is continuing to make his point that all are without hope if they are without God’s mercy. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, doing 70 in a parking lot, or residential area, is breaking the law of your conscience as well as the law of the land. Conversely, you can do right even without knowing right. You could be obeying the speed limit without knowing it, and you could be breaking it without knowing it, but either way, you are either doing it right or you are not, regardless of your knowledge of it. The law isn’t a secret code we have to dig back through and find out the greater meaning of like the Talmud and Mishnah do, even the people who have never heard of the law have it, the point is that none keep it. It is not some mystical knowledge of the law that will save you, like Jewish mysticism (Zohar / Kabala). The doing of the law perfectly would save you but no one has or will be able to do it but Christ, and that was the point.

The OT was about Christ but it had been veiled (John 5:39 / Luke 24:27). Now the mystery has been revealed it is not a secret it is out in the open (Colossians 1:26).

1 Peter 1:18-21knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Your faith is not in some old ritualistic system, your faith is not in finding some secret knowledge, and your faith is not in your own good deeds or the condition of your heart. Your faith must be in Christ alone, and what He alone did. He alone fulfilled the law, He alone paid the price, and He alone is your salvation.

Vs.13-14 – James 1:22-23 – some think James is contradicting Paul, but he is complementing not contradicting him. James has a different emphasis; he is focusing on the fact that while we are saved by faith it will show itself in our works. Not that the works save us; they are not the root but the fruit of our justification (Ephesians 2:8-10 / Romans 8:29-30 / Titus 2:11-13).

The point of the first half of Romans 2 is not that some men are saved by their incomplete knowledge of the Gospel, but that all men are without any excuse including an ignorance regarding the moral decrees of God. People know the law in their consciences and they do not obey it. It is not that some are obeying and are saved, but that none are and all are damned.

Vs.15 – There is no secret way to God – It is an incorrect interpretation to say that Romans 1-2 hint at a secret, natural "gospel" which saves men – this is a wicked, anti-evangelistic theology. Paul's meaning is not that one can be saved apart from the knowledge of Christ, but that everyone has sufficient knowledge to be condemned. Romans 1-2 do not say that anyone who "responds" to general revelation will be saved. Rather, it shows that revelation testifies to mankind's condemnation. Paul is not pleading that some are coincidentally saved here: he's making the strong case for universal depravity among men – the Jews because they have received the Law, and the Gentiles for knowing intuitively what the Law is, but both are now guilty because none could keep it. The only way to God is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the monergist, "those who haven't heard" do not present a problem, as God knows who His children are and will ensure that they hear the gospel. Acts 17:26

In the same way there is no secret society of Christians, some elite core of Christianity that has special revelation that we do not have in the Bible. There is no special organization that you can belong to that makes you a better Christian, unless that organization is the one Christ Himself established, the church. I am not talking about having organizations that are for teaching or doing God’s work in an open way. I am talking about closed societies, special knowledge, and secret things. Deuteronomy 29:29The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Any organization that claims Christ but has closed ranks that one must be initiated into is not the open society God has ordained in Christ, it is just like the Judaizers who said that Gentiles must be initiated into the deeper truths by the rite of circumcision. Paul said this was a false gospel, and he proclaims a curse on anyone doing this (Galatians 1:6).

He would say the same thing today about many organizations that claim to be Christian, but have initiation levels that grant secret knowledge others do not have access to. I am not talking about going to seminary, which is an open thing; I am talking about secret societies, secret codes secret religions and special knowledge not found in the scriptures. Although it might mention Christ, and even seem to have Him as the center, it is not of Christ. We are supposed to be open, as we are to God, we are to be open to men, and the mysteries of the Gospel have been revealed to all God’s people, those who have put their faith and trust in Christ are complete in Him, and anyone or anything that says otherwise is blaspheming Christ Himself. You don’t have to go through a ritual to get to God (1 Timothy 2:5). You can go straight to the throne room (Hebrews 4:16).

Vs.16 – There are no secret sins to God – the secrets of men – Paul was finishing his thought here and saying that these hypocrites have secret sin, some they know about, some they don’t.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 – For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Luke 8:17 – For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.

1 Corinthians 3:13 – each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 4:5… who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.

To all: have you examined yourself by the standard of the Great Physician, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5)? We can follow Him on that gospel road by faith. We will not walk it perfectly, but His walk not our walk is what saves us. That is the gospel and out of gratitude for it and love for Him we attempt to walk that same path, knowing that our walk will be imperfect and that we will stumble and fall, but that God will pick us up and if we will get up and want to walk again He will empower us to do so.

To the backslider: get back on repentance road, which leads down submission street, which you will find on your knees. Just because you know the truth doesn’t mean you are trusting in it. Those that do not walk the path at all are saying that they have no faith. Justice or mercy, which do you want?

To those that know Jesus is the only way and that now want to move on in Him: are you sure your motives are pure? You can’t hold back your best and expect God to pour His blessing out.

Let’s get real, and let’s get right today, that is what Paul was saying to them, and what God is saying to us today. You may fool the preacher, you may fool the public, you may fool your parents, you may fool your partner, and you may even fool yourself, but you can’t fool God. We can never be sure of our motives completely, that is why we have to ask God to help us see ourselves as we truly are (Psalm 19:12-14 / 139:23-24).

You don’t need a secret code, you won’t find a secret way, and you can’t hide a secret sin. There are no secrets with God.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Wilted Witness

…to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
(James 1:27 – NKJV)

Just doing good things isn’t enough; we can’t do the first part of verse 27, visit orphans and widows in their trouble, at the expense of the second. Unspotted means that we don’t partner up with the world, even when it means we have to leave off at doing some “good” things for others. We must be careful not to let the good become the enemy of the best.

However, so many of today’s so-called Christian leaders just don’t get it. They think that we need government and business help to spread the supposed Gospel they are carrying. Think for a moment about Lot, he was the mayor of his town but that influence didn’t stop it from suffering the judgment of God in flaming fire and brimstone! How dare we think that if we could just get our legislators and judges to be Christians that then everything would be hunky dory? We could have every governor, every senator, every politician in America, and the world for that matter, as professing, born again Christians and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference! Don’t you know that God already has the king’s heart in His hand and He turns it any way He wants (Proverbs 21:1)? Yes we can vote, but this world is passing away and we are just passing through; our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Holiness means not to yoke ourselves with the world in order to further a common cause if it means that we must compromise the Gospel, and being a saint means not to act and think as the world in all of its wicked ways. Not compromising the Gospel isn’t just about being able to declare the truths of Christ, it also means not believing that we can look like the world, like we can be separate in heart but we can still adhere to the latest and greatest trends in society, being worldly, fleshly, centered on self, and what the Old Man Adam wants rather than centered on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-3). No person can live a life separated unto the Gospel in their heart and still be living and looking like they used to in the world. We must be progressively becoming more detached from the world. There are things that I did last year that I by the grace of God will never do again, even if they aren’t sin per se they are at best dead works, and at worst they are the makings of an idolatry of self. It might not be all bad, but it is absolutely no good. I’m tired of being cool, now I want to be clean. Being reverent is relevant.

It isn’t about what you are allowed to do; it is what will leave you in a static state rather than having a living, growing, dynamic relationship with Christ. Don’t think for one minute that you can go on doing like you do and still get moving on with God. Yes, it may not keep you from Heaven, but that thing you won’t let go of, that thing that you defend as your right, that thing that you know isn’t right but you tell everyone else that it is none of their business, that thing that you keep as your little secret, that thing that you have to do in certain company but refrain from amongst others, that thing will keep you from God’s greater glory, it doesn’t glorify God, and it ruins, yes I said it RUINS your witness!

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Searching For Scraps

…Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table
(Matthew 15:27 – ESV)

The obedience of faith is about pressing on, wrestling in prayer, and searching for God. This woman did not get upset that her people were compared to dogs, and she did not resent the Jews for seemingly being more blessed. She persisted; if Jesus was not going to do things the way she wanted or thought they needed to go, she was going to persist until she found out exactly what He would do by being diligent.

Jesus was teaching that faith isn’t about just believing that God can do something, or even that He will do something, it is communing with Him until He does do something. It may not be what we want in every case, but we are to be obedient and keep pressing on. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6).

True faith does not give up, it perseveres, it presses on, it presses in, and it does not always accept as final the first response it hears, either good or bad. It continues to seek God, and yet it is content with whatever it gets, all the while asking, seeking, and knocking on the door.

This woman knew that faith was obediently seeking for the Master, despite a seeming rejection from the Master Himself. We would do well to recognize that when God does not give us our desires (even righteous ones) “in time” He may be trying to get us to draw even closer, or teaching us some other lesson. Press on: there are no shortcuts to maturity. We are not ready to handle every blessing God has for us until we are ready to wrestle and rest at the same time. You may feel like God isn’t feeding you the filet mignon right now, but keep asking Him until He at least gives you the scraps.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Miracles and Means

Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
(Luke 8:55 – NIV)

Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. The body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26), but Jesus is the giver of life. He spoke to her as if she was alive because God “quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17).

Notice that she was given meat to eat; you see, although Jesus performed in the supernatural realm that did not mean that natural means were not used as well. She was brought back to life, but her life was not now supernaturally different, it would have to be lived as it was before she died. She had not eaten for a long time and she needed food. Likewise Elijah was given super speed by the hand of the Lord (1 Kings 18:46), but he probably needed a drink of water afterwards!

Applying this to our lives is important. For example, after we have received a healing or deliverance, say from cancer caused by smoking, we cannot just go back to our habit and expect to still remain unhurt. A supernatural intervention does not negate all the laws of physics from that point on, because a “miracle”, or God moving in an overtly providential way (healing, deliverance, etc.) is for a specific thing and a specific time. You get a second chance, another choice, but not a permanent vacation from responsibility.

Consider that the Israelites still had to walk across the Red Sea, and later they still had to look up at the brazen serpent, otherwise they would have died. It is not hard to imagine that some saw this provision as foolishness, and died as a result of not obeying God. Similarly we must cooperate with God and not fall back to our old ways and make the grace of God of none effect.

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed, let us not run back to the jail cell, or be so hasty to place the shackles back on our feet. When we are set free from bondage, we are only setting ourselves up for more problems if we do not turn to something else. How terribly often have we heard of or known someone (or been someone!) that has overcome an addiction, only to pick it back up again worse than before. This is why we should listen to Peter (2 Peter 2:20-22) talk about the passage in Proverbs 26:11 that says the dog returns to his vomit again.

We need new food. We must feed on Christ, and not just be free from Satan. We need to be released from the enemy’s power, for sure, but we must not become a “dry place” that is, we must stay “wet” with the overflow of the Spirit in our lives (John 7:37-39). This is why we must trade our old habits for newer, godly ones, we must spend our time not idle, but engaging in spiritual disciplines such as bible study and prayer, and have an accountability factor in our lives to assure us that we don’t slide back into sin. This is a powerful reason to understand why we need to be plugged in to a local body of believers. God often shows His providential provision thorough conventional channels, His supernatural power through natural means.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Venerating Vanity

…they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
(Philippians 3:19 – ESV)

You need to find joy in the right things. When we mind earthly things, our greatest intensity is toward earthly not spiritual things. Compare this with Philippians 3:16, instead of minding the same things as Paul, and those maturing in Christ, we have our own agenda, the same as the world’s, the same as we were before we supposedly forsook all for Christ.

Where do your passions lie? God will reveal if you are passionate about the wrong things, and He will do so in community. In the context of this passage, Paul is saying let’s all be passionate about the same things, growing in the knowledge of Christ, and if anyone isn’t God will reveal this, and He does it in the context of community, so follow those who are pressing on and make sure you follow what you already know to do. We also need to watch out, there are some who are passionate about earthly things first and foremost.

We’ll use an obvious example here. Considering how important and necessary money is, it can easily be perverted and become our passion more so than God, and we won’t give up our habits. Think about passages such as James 4:13-16 / Matthew 6:19-21 / Luke 12:16-21; wealth is not wrong but is it controlling you? Are all decisions based upon its production and protection, the “get it or keep it” idea being the most important thing to you (Colossians 3:1-3)?

The opposite of joy in a sense is lust. If I have joy in God I can wait on His plan and timing, even considering my sanctification. Joy is patient, and impatience is pride. Pride leads to lust, which says I deserve it now, or why do I have to wait, or why do I have to deal with this situation, or why am I here? Lust is “I want it my way and in my time, and that time is now”. It wants to go outside God's guidelines to find satisfaction.

Paul says these persons who are like this are enemies and their desire is to find joy in whatever way they deem necessary. They will not mature and they will do it the way they want to. They will not follow others as a pattern, and they think they know better, but they are wrong. They think they have found easy street, a better way, a Christian life and afterlife without a true Christian testimony. They might think they are covered by Christ’s blood, but they are only filling their veins with the virus of vanity.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday Sermon: You’re Imagining Things

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
(Romans 1:21 - ESV)

The problem is not that man did not know God, but that he did know Him – yet refused to glorify Him as God. Therefore, mankind is without excuse. Here we see the awful process. Their worship of Him did not keep pace with their knowledge. They were not thankful, and they become vain in their imaginations, and their hearts become darkened.

Whenever we reject one explanation of the facts we must necessarily counter with an alternative. Paul gives us the big picture of humanity’s slide into depravity; they transformed their conception of Him into forms and images more comfortable to their corrupt and darkened hearts. They heard (Romans 10:18 / Colossians 1:5-6, 23) but they didn’t listen and obey. They didn’t thank the Giver but the gift; they worship the sun, moon, and stars, the earth and its people, instead of the One who created it all. Now this isn’t only about back then, it has been played out many times, and even in our individual lives. Keep that in mind. When people don’t have the right conception of God they will invent anything and everything under the sun to take His place.

Their imaginations run wild, they move according to their own thoughts instead of from God’s thoughts, the people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18 – ESV), they ignore the revelation of God, and then God slowly allows them to recede from the restraining effect of God’s common grace. Where people don’t glorify God and thank Him, their imaginations get the best of them.

Three biblical examples: Genesis 6:5, 11:1-6, only about 100 years between the Flood and the Tower of Babel events, yet God still had mercy, by restraining their vain imaginations. Vanity – Ecclesiastes / Jeremiah 2:5, 7:23-24, 13:16, 23:16-17 – These passages describe what happens to a people who have knowledge of God but don’t act like it, they are bound by their own sin. We see countless examples of this in scripture, when people worship the creation and the created rather than the Creator (Acts 14:1-19).

We can also be guilty of worshipping a self-made God. We can’t seem to resist the temptation to create God into our own corrupt image, or even into an image beneath us. Every heresy begins with a misconception about the nature of God. It is absolutely essential that we constantly compare our own conception of God against the reality of who God is as revealed in His Word. We will inescapably become like the God we serve. We don’t like God as He presents Himself therefore we make a cafeteria religion. Here are the choices on the menu today:

Three modern examples: Cult of culture – “everything about God must be relevant to cultural norms” – decided by cultural sensibilities, it is groupthink and it leads to pandemonium, as we talked about for the last two weeks. Even the words of God in the Bible are looked at in the context of today’s culture, and we become the arbiter – “hath God said?” this leads to attack as on the authority, sufficiency and clarity of scripture, as we will see when we get to the verses about homosexuality and you will hear, “we need to update the bible to our times”. To the secular priests of the human rights culture, the only sin is to say that homosexuality is a sin. They don’t seek to conform the culture to God’s standards, but God to the cultural standards.

Cult of science – “everything about the eternal we can find in the natural” – looking at the window only instead of at it and then also through it to what it points us to. We study the glasses but don’t put them on. We only see what we want to see.

Cult of self-discovery – “everyone is on their own road” – purity of purpose is the goal, sincerity instead of truth, God on the inside, self-help, what’s in your heart is what’s real and true, and God. Sincerity is no substitute for truth. One without the other is of no value in finding God.

We want to worship the God who worships us. When He demands our allegiance, without earthly recompense, and brings us hardship instead, we become hard hearted against Him. When He tells us to take up our cross, we demand He be placed on the cross instead. Consider also the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, they thought they knew who He was, but when He was something different than what they wanted they turned on Him, much as we turn our backs on the real God, and instead worship a God of our own desires.

Vain imagining and a darkened heart: Ever heard someone pontificate about something they obviously know nothing about? Embarrassing, and pitiful isn’t it? How many people claim to know God but are all caught up in some mumbo jumbo about angels, or Oprah, or some quasi spiritual nonsense, it is because they did not glorify God as God, they put him in second place or worse, and didn’t give thanks to Him as He truly is, and so they become vain in their imagination, and when they reach to use “god” they are using the gods of their own devices, and their hearts become more and more darkened, as they feel this god of their own making has to be God, and even when they read the bible they only see what they want to see in it, and become unteachable and immovable in their sinful conception of God.

They are without excuse because even when they know of God they do not glorify Him, they are not thankful, and they become vain in their imaginations, and their hearts become darkened. Isaiah 5:20 – the outcome is always the same – Matthew 6:23 – man will declare the laws of God against the law – we unwittingly seek to destroy the good that God has given us. British police have now arrested a man for distributing pamphlets featuring Bible verses at a homosexual rally. How long will it be before Christianity becomes illegal? We are closer than you think. The logic of men will surely lead ultimately to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible itself is “hate speech” and must be banned. We will destroy those freedoms that God first gave us.

“Will you kindly notice, that, according to my text, knowledge is of no use if it does not lead to holy practice? “They knew God.” It was no good to them to know God, for “they glorified him not as God.” So my theological friend over there, who knows so much that he can split hairs over doctrines, it does not matter what you think, or what you know, unless it leads you to glorify God, and to be thankful.” (Spurgeon)

In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says "what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." After all, "the history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God." If no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God, the same is true of individuals. We can never rise above our idea of God. How we think about God influences how we live for God.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, 'What comes into your mind when you think about God?' we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the church will stand tomorrow." But still many Christians do not think deeply about God, about what He is like, or about what we must do about Him. "I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God."

"Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, 'What is God like?' and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind."

This is why I am so vigorous to root out false teaching about the nature of God from my life, and from this assembly, and why you hear me rail against the backslidden and the apostate leaders of the church today. It is a prophetic warning of the falling away we are seeing today and will see tomorrow, and a call to faithfulness, not timely relevance, but timeless relevance. Spurgeon said it in the 19th century, Tozer said it in the 20th, and I say it again today.

Acts 17:27 / Ephesians 4:17-19 describe the downward spiral of the depraved, Ephesians 4:20-21 – you have learned better, and the rest of Ephesians describes what to do with that knowledge

To Christians: Isaiah 43:7-10 – He does not mean He made us so that He could become more glorious in Himself. We cannot increase his beauty and perfection. Instead what it means is that He created us to display His glory, that it might be known and praised. This is the goal of God, that the Lord's glory will be known and displayed to the nations. Matthew 5:16 / Philippians 2:15

Giving thanks: remember our discussion of this from Romans 1:8, we described six ways of giving thanks unto God: stewardship, sincerity, sanctification, suffering, solidarity, and service.

2 Corinthians 10:5 – don’t let anything come between you and God
1 Corinthians 10:31 – seek to glorify God in all you do
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – be thankful for what you do have and anything that comes your way
Romans 12:2 / Ephesians 4:23 – keep feeding on the Word of God
Ephesians 5:8 / 1 Thessalonians 5:5 – walk in the light you have, don’t turn backwards (John 12:35 – stay in fellowship with believers, if they are not doing the other things, then admonish them, and if they won’t repent then leave)

To unbelievers, and those who are wavering in their faith: Living as though there were no God will keep you from finding God. The best advice I can give to the person who wants to find out whether Christianity is true is to live as though it were (John 7:17): pray, follow the Bible, give up claims to self-ownership, and say to Christ in your darkness, "If you are there, you can have me." Colossians 1:12-13 / 1 Peter 2:9 – this can be you today.

To all: Jeremiah 9:23-24 – What comes into your mind when you think about God?

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Jailhouse Rock

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God…
(Acts 16:25)

This is an excellent illustration of the obedience, as opposed to the presumption of faith. Not only does the presumption have to do with deception regarding discernment, it also is relevant regarding the purpose for manifestations of power.

Paul and Silas praised, not knowing that God was going to set them free. They were not praying to be released from their bonds, trying to “force” the jail open. The fact that they stayed after the jail was opened was proof of this. They praised for the sake of praising, realizing that God is sovereign, and that He must have had a purpose in this. Even if that purpose was for them to die as witnesses, so be it. Because of their obedient faith, in the light of God’s plan, God did release them, and the jailor and his whole family got saved.

This is the greater point, not the miracle of the jail being opened, but the jailor and his family believing. The rocking and shaking of the jail cells during the earthquake was nothing compared to the ruckus in heaven when that jailor and his family were saved, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10 – ESV). The power was a means to an evangelizing end, not simply a rescue of God’s “special favorites”. This example should ring loud and clear in the minds of true believers today. If we are in a situation, we should know that God is with us and ask God if there is an opportunity to witness coming from this trial, not merely ask Him for relief.

Joy is not concerned with temporary circumstance, but in an abundant life of obedience, drawing closer despite the circumstance and God making His presence felt in our growth. Obedience, praising God for being God to us, not just for being good to us, is the order of things. The presumption of faith is a perversion of that order. It may feel as if something or someone is keeping you in prison, but if you let your praise rock the jailhouse you are in, God can use it to set others free, and not just yourself.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Sermon: God’s Guarantee

…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6 – ESV)

Paul was thanking the church at Philippi, and he was letting them know he had prayed for them, was praying for them, and would be praying for them. Looking at these first few verses in this chapter, we see that Paul’s thankful, he’s praying, he’s joyful, things are happening and God is guaranteeing results. This is what had been happening, now Paul turns to what he is praying for and because of God’s guarantee it is what would be happening.

He’s got them fervently on his heart; they are partaking in the abundant grace Paul was receiving and vice versa. They were together growing in persecution and the proclamation and power of God and Paul had loved them as Christ loved them. He was growing in that love, and they were helping their Apostle grow in that grace by what was happening to them. And so Paul is praying for an increase in love, knowledge and discernment so that they could do and know and have excellent things and be pure and holy and full of righteousness. God was doing it and would continue to do it to the praise of His glory.

This was a church that had done well, and had come on some hard times, but one that Paul was praying for, and it was a church that had a guarantee, and so do we. We are not yet perfected but we are becoming perfected (Hebrews 5:8-11). We learn to obey more completely. Let me give some individual as well as corporate application for you right now.

Our Christianity is mirrored buy our relationships in this way. Most think only about starting out great, but then there is the inevitable slide, but if they knew the process they would see it as the stairs not the slide. You don’t start at the top you climb up, and Jesus gives you the power, do you believe it or not? Most think it is about starting out on top and trying hard to stay there, but that isn’t the way God works.

Most think the stairs are the slide, and then when they slide down too far they leave. Instead we should be becoming more and more dynamic, able to survive, but more than that, to thrive as we get better and not have to avoid but endure and secure through and because of problems. This is a totally different mindset and that I say is the mind of Christ, Paul says let this mind also be in you.

The church at Philippi was under heavy persecution from without and from within. It is not about never having issues or problems, other wise you could never grow at all. That would simply be the avoidance of real issues. We are to act in accordance not in avoidance. No one, no relationship, no earthly thing starts or ever is perfect, but mature things will work their way through things. It isn’t that it is always okay, it is whenever it isn’t it ends up okay anyway, and we see each other as stronger, we grow together as individuals and as a union. These things are not stumbling blocks they are stepping-stones.

They are growing this is what Paul is describing as what was happening to them what he was praying for them and what God has guaranteed them. Jesus said, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. God always finishes what He starts.

His guarantee doesn’t mean we will always get things the way we want them, it but it does mean we will get things the way we truly need them.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will never hurt, but it does mean that He will ultimately heal.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we won’t ever lose any members, but it does mean that we will press on and God will add to us such as are being saved.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will have no struggles, but it does mean that we will be more than conquerors.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will win every battle, but it does mean that He will cause us always to triumph.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that you will never feel lonely, but it does mean that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will never stray, but it does mean that we will always find the way home.

In the most important sense, you cannot ultimately fail if you know Jesus Christ and trust your eternal soul to Him. If you call on Christ today you will succeed, you will survive, you will be sanctified, and you will be saved: guaranteed.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

You Got It

…that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work
(2 Timothy 3:17 – ESV)

The Gospel, the spread of it, and your inclusion into it are all about Christ. Jesus is the one who called Paul to salvation and apostleship and Jesus equipped him for the mission. He is the one who called you and He will empower you for service in His kingdom. If you have answered the call to salvation, it is high time to answer the call to service. We also have the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of miracles, and so forth. Not exactly the same as Paul had, his mission was unique, but your mission is also unique, and you need special equipment to do the task. With Bible in hand and heart (Colossians 3:16) you have all you will ever need.

You are called, and you have everything you need to perform every good work right at your fingertips. At other times we have discussed the futility of trying to serve in your own power. The Bible, through its great and precious promises, is how you are made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:2-4). Whatever grace, guidance, or gifts you may receive they are to be found in God’s Word. Jesus, the Living Word, will give to you from His written Word.

We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). What you need is Christ, not some self help book; do it His way (Colossians 2:6-10). The Spirit changes us as we behold Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). When you have the Word then you have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and you have the Spirit, for the Spirit and the Word are one (1 John 5:7). He has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:2-4 – “knowledge” here is epignosis – a fuller knowledge, a growing recognition).

We see how everything we need is wrapped up in Jesus, and we acquire these things from Him by the promises in the Word of God. It is through the Bible that we receive the power of the divine nature. Indeed the Word of God is ALIVE (Hebrews 4:12)! This is where we get our needs for sanctification met (2 Corinthians 7:1): through the Word we are thoroughly equipped (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Discernment point: Regarding your needs for life and godliness, remember this:

IF YOU ARE GETTING IT OUTSIDE THE WORD OF GOD

THEN YOU ARE GETTING IT OUTSIDE THE WILL OF GOD.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Which Jesus?

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.
(1 John 4:2-3 – ESV)

Almost no one in the religious world rejects the claim that Jesus walked the earth as a man. The Devil uses more subtlety than that. So the key to this verse is not only “in the flesh”, but “Jesus Christ”: it is whom Jesus Christ is believed to be that is also important. Some believe in a spirit-only type of Christ, and “in the flesh” would apply. Most see Jesus as having been man, but deny His divinity, or diminish it, saying that He is not eternal, or that He is not the Almighty and supreme, or a host of other evil beliefs.

The Jesus of the Mormons (twin brother to Satan), the Jesus of the Muslims (only a prophet), the Jesus of the Jews (not the Messiah), the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (a created being, Michael the Archangel), the Jesus of the Gnostics (mystical giver of secret knowledge), the Jesus of the Buddhists (teacher), the Jesus of the Baha’i (one of the progressive prophets of truth), the Jesus of the New Age (spiritual guru), the Jesus of the Quakers (inner light), and the Jesus of the cults (our example but not our Savior) are all false; we know that. The Holy Spirit bears witness to the true Christ only. The Spirit works to build up the name of Jesus not detract from Him. Any thing that shifts emphasis from Christ to giving glory or attention to something else is false.

This seems simple enough, but how do we apply this? Think carefully. If something points away from the need to see Jesus as a savior, and sees Him as only a man who saw the way to salvation, this is the Jesus of the Gnostics, or the New Age. If something points to Jesus as being inferior to God in any way, this is the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Mormons. If something points to Jesus as being part of the overall revelation of God, instead of being God in the flesh, it is the Jesus of the Muslims, or the Baha’i. If something points to Jesus as being a teacher of wisdom, but not being divine, it is the Jesus of the Jews or the Jesus of the Buddhists. If something points to Jesus as being more spirit than man, it is the Jesus of the Quakers. If something points to Jesus as being more our example than our Savior, it is the Jesus of the cults.

Anything that lessons our esteem for Jesus as the omnipotent God who created all things, is eternally self-existent, and became flesh (fully God AND fully man), is not from God. Jesus must be portrayed as the only means of salvation and the only hope for the world. His centrality and supremacy must be at the forefront of any spirit that claims to be from God.


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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Saturday Sermon: The Way of Peace

Philippians 4:2-9

We are in a war with sin, self, Satan and situations, but we can have peace in conflict, chaos and calamity – 2 Corinthians 13:11 / John 14:27, 16:33 / Romans 5:1, 15:13, 12:18 / Hebrews 12:14.

Vs.2-3I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

This is what to do with quarrels in the church. Verses 1-4 say “stand firm thus in the Lord”, “agree in the Lord”, “help…me in the gospel”, and “rejoice in the Lord”. Start with the bottom line – we love Christ, we love each other, and we want to further God’s kingdom with the gospel. We must remember that everything else is less important than that common ground. We may disagree on how we do some things, but we start by agreeing that we want these things.

We may not be happy because we are not on the same page with someone, but we can have joy because we are at least in the same book, and all we have to do is turn some pages together, and with the help of others we can be seeing things the same way again. Also remember Philippians 3:15-17, lets make sure we are pressing on to maturity by knowing we are not perfected yet, by forgetting what was behind that we did wrong, by striving to learn more, by following the lead of others whom are our mentors, by doing what we know to do already, and by realizing those whom are mature in this way will be led by the Lord to discover and discern what is right.

These ladies weren’t heretics or apostates they were true believers, “whose names are in the book of life”. Even true believers can have disagreements. We can disagree vigorously without dividing. Do we trust God in the context of community? Disputes are inevitable, and are often necessary in order to iron our error, but how we handle, or process them is the key to whether we stay of the same mind or we split. The “same mind” (KJV) means toward the same goal, that of unity in verity, fellowship around the truth in Christ not the truth from self.

Vs. 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Now Paul continues on with some practical application. The first bit here is to think about Christ, let those whom are in disagreement with each other agree about the worth of Christ together. Philippians 1:4, 1:18, 1:25, 2:2, 2:16, 2:17, 2:18, 2:28, 3:1, 3:3, 4:1, 4:4 – joy. Paul’s joy wasn’t based in a sunny optimism or positive mental attitude as much as it was the confidence that God was in control. It really was a joy in the Lord (1:6 / 2:13 / 3:14 / 4:13). Remember this about rejoicing “in the Lord”, rejoicing is not about a spirit or an attitude but about rejoicing in Christ Himself, that is the key. Not in situations or circumstances but in the person of Jesus Christ. Not a “way” of rejoicing but a “who” of rejoicing.

Vs.5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Paul is saying use mercy as another means to help with disputes and to foster joy in the community (James 3:14-18). It is putting others before you, recognizing Jesus as present within the community to help in this matter. This describes a person who is free to let go of anxieties and all the things that cause stress, because they know that the Lord will take up the cause. This has to be cultivated, be known to everyone, not just those whom we are in essential agreement with, such as Christians, but also those who we are not in agreement with at all. We will not be able to turn the switch on and off; it is a lifestyle as much as a choice. Even outside the context of the Christian community we must allow the Lord to fight our battles for us without us becoming like the world in bitterness, malice, and evil plotting. James 5:8-9 – the Lord is always a moment closer to coming back than He was a moment ago (Romans 13:11).

Vs.6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

We have concerns, objectives, wants and needs, but what we are commanded not to have is worries. Prayer is an important way to overcoming obstacles, in that Gods answer prayer, and through it He also reveals what the obstacles are, we see the problems within ourselves that we can handle and we gain perspective on those things we have no control of, and we ask God to control them or to give us wisdom in how to deal with them. Prayer is a word that can mean all of our communication with God, but supplication directly asks God to do something. If you will request, He will reveal (A-S-K – Matthew 7:7-8). Pray for peace and agreement in the fellowship, even when it’s going good.

With thanksgiving – Thank Him for what you have before you ask Him for what you need. Thank Him for the bottom line, the work of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Thank Him that He started it and He will finish it, that He is working in us to do and to will and that He gives us strength to endure all things that we may be going through right now and in the future. We are going to make it, and we need to always come back to this as our bottom line as to why we can give thanks at all an in all, accepting whatever God may have for us to do or for us to go through.

Tell God what you have done wrong before you ask Him to make it right. In this situation like Paul was describing with the two ladies and in any situation we might face we need to acknowledge the fact that we have split opinions and that we are not fully mature yet and that we need help to come together. We understand that we are together but we need the Lord to bring us to unity in verity. We have done wrong, not necessarily with willful malice, but the fact that we don’t see eye-to-eye means we are wounded in some way and we need God to heal us. We give thanks knowing that He can and He will act if we will act in accordance with the bottom line.

Vs.7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Getting the peace – If we do these things this will be the result, God will provide, guide, protect and direct us to peace with one another, and He will make us of the same mind (set). It will be beyond human comprehension. We cannot understand it but we can experience it. It comes to us most clearly and powerfully, not in individual situations, but rather within the context of Christian community, as Paul is explaining here (Colossians 3:12-16). Relate this to what Jesus said about His peace and unity with God the Father, Son, and Spirit in John chapters 14-17.

The peace happens when you do these other things together. This is the process of joy and peace, the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17-19); it is not arguing incessantly about meat, drink, or anything else, it is a clear understanding of Christ working among you. It comes through our unity in community working through our diversity. This same mind, this mindset, will be the same one Christ had when He came to earth, the same one He has now, and the same one He wants us to have, and prayed for us to have. Peace and joy are linked, they are both facets of the fruit of the Spirit, out of our love for the Lord and for each other these things begin to flow. They lead to longsuffering, and on down the line to number nine, self control.

Vs.8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Keeping the peace means keeping your mind set on the right things – Romans 8:6 / Isaiah 26:3

Vs.9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Not just the peace of God, but the God of peace. He brings His peace into the situation and as we and as you continue to walk in that His presence becomes more manifest in our presence. This is beyond peace for the moment or in the situation, it is peace as a continuous manifestation. You will become like the Prince of Peace if you follow the Way of peace. Amen.

Here is a poem I wrote to review all the points I just made

Peace happens when we agree; Peace is the way we should be
Peace banks on the bottom line; Peace, salvation yours and mine
Peace is willing to be wrong; Peace is knowing God is strong
Peace rejoices in the Lord; Peace with worship as its sword
Peace knows mercy is a friend; Peace doesn’t look to offend
Peace happens when we’re at prayer; Peace is what God gives us there
Peace will keep your mind set right; Peace will see God win the fight
Peace in the midst of chaos, Peace in the midst of sorrow
Peace doesn’t focus on loss, Peace sees gain for tomorrow

It is the same Way of Peace for chaos and calamity as it is for conflict

Realizing the bottom line (vs.2-3)
Relating to one another as peace agents (vs.2-3)
Rejoicing in the Lord (vs.4)
Readying yourself to show mercy to all (vs.5)
Realizing the Lord is at hand (vs.5)
Requesting God’s help with thanksgiving and not worry (vs.6)
Reaping the peace you have sown (vs.7)
Renewing your mind around this truth and these actions (vs.8)
Resting in the God of peace as He is with you (vs.9)

Are you at peace with God? You can have peace with God, and a peace that passes all understanding, even in the most difficult of times. Surrender to the Prince of Peace today.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

I Love Her

…for better, for worse, in sickness and in health…

You would have loved them. We took extra time out of our vacation to go see centuri0n, and we spent an extra day just so we could meet Gummby and his wife…The Lord in His grace gave us the time and resources to be able to go on a blogger tour (the first of more, we hope, look out Canadians!)…

We took a lot of photos, had a great time, and couldn’t wait to come back to share it all with our friends in the blogosphere. It was important to me. We know how all of you have awaited this patiently…So let me tell you….

The pictures were so cool. Frank (centuri0n) doesn’t look like he does in his avatar picture. He was wonderful to be around, and he even shed his shirt for one of the photos, revealing a “Superman” logo underneath, complete with hilarious posing and such. It would have had you laughing out loud, I guarantee.

The conversation was incredible. Matt (Gummby) and his wife sure know their theology, and we engaged them in dialog there at TGIF Friday’s for nearly three hours. They were so kind to take time out to see us, what, with it supposed to be Gummby’s birthday celebration and all. They had hired a babysitter so that they could go out and enjoy some time together, alone, but Matt was all about meeting bloggers of like precious faith. It was an inspiring time, and the pictures we took would have reminded me and all of you of the blessings God has given us in fellowship, and of how this media and the people I have met through it have sharpened, strengthened, and supported me.

But the most important thing about the whole ScumBlogCon with cent, and the wonderful time with Matt and his wife was that I got to share all of that with Margie, my wife. She got to see first hand the people I am dealing with in the blogosphere. It meant a lot to me that we could even do it. But there was a problem. You see, Margie just told me that she overexposed all the pictures, and we lost them all. So even though we had such a good time, we cannot share it as much as we wanted with all of you.

You would have loved the pictures…a lot…

But not as much as I love my wife…

It is all good, baby…

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