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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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Here Is The New Book


Well, it sure took longer than I had anticipated, but just in time for Mothers Day (hey mom), the new book has arrived. It consists of fifty of the posts just like you see here every weekday...

Anyway, you don't have to order the book to see the posts. Everything in this book, or in subsequent books, will be seen right here at the site first.

The subtitle reads, Devotional Arrows Aimed At The Heart

If for some reason you would like a copy,

here is a link to the book on Amazon

In His Grace and For His Glory...

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Cultural Crusaders

The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.
(Romans 2:24 – ESV)

In the Christian world today some leaders have an undying passion, but it is the wrong order of things. They have a passion for the temporal results of Jesus put before the eternal relationship with Jesus. What we are taking about are those Christians who are on a moral crusade, out to fulfill some so called cultural mandate, seeing it as part of, and by extension coming before the Great Commission. They want to reclaim the city, town, or country for Christ. They don’t realize that it starts one heart at a time. We could have the most moral society we can imagine, and all its citizens on the road to hell.

We ought to have a passion for the lost, which results in a moral and ethical society, rather than a passion for a moral and ethical society, which results in a passion against the lost. 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.

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 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.


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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Compromised Christianity

2 Chronicles 17-22

The fourth hurdle on the Highway to Holiness is Compromised Christianity; a lack of discernment of purity that leads to making wrong alliances with the enemies of God, or with those who are wanting to be friends of God but who want to do things that would advance their agenda first. They are against God’s will or out of order, while they feel they are advancing the kingdom of God. They compromise their position and they have to go the other way, not the other going God’s way. They are influenced more than they influence and they are forced to do what they might not have done otherwise, because they are now in a compromised position.

Careless Christianitylooking for an opportunity outside the will of God leads to idolatry while you think it is the favor of God – they get taken from, taken away, taken over, and taken out. They lack a desire for purity. You’ve got to care about it.

Crisis Christianityrebellion against the authority of God leads to false repentance while you think it is loyalty to God – they lose their place and they die after the altar or even at the altar. They lack a devotion to purity. You’ve got to be committed to it.

Compulsive Christianitymisusing the power of God leads to an immature and impatient faith while you think it is victory and vigor – they lose their strength, lose their witness, lose their leadership, and die with the enemy. They lack a discipline to purity. You’ve got to cultivate it.

Now we will look at another OT type that shows us believers who may be saved but they aren’t sold out. We saw that Careless Christians are not really walking in any fullness. Crisis Christians have achieved some things but they let other things rob them of God’s fullness in their lives. Compulsive Christians have seemingly great victories but they have to because they unnecessarily put themselves in harms way. They are in and out of God’s fullness. Compromised Christians are believers who actually do have a heart for God and do many good things. Their personal life is usually straight and narrow, but they forfeit the fullness because of their alliances with others. It is not that we cannot partner with people at all, but that we must separate when we know they want to do things outside of God’s will.

Compromised Christianityaligning with people away from God leads to assuming that we can help others we shouldn’t and that we can survive and thrive by strengthening ourselves in the flesh. We do bad to do good; we are lead away from God and havoc happens to others around us. They lack a discernment of purity. You’ve got to be cautious about it.

We have moved higher on the highway to holiness, to a place where many think that they are right where they need to be, but they really aren’t as far as they think they are. They have a real concern about living their personal life God’s way, they aren’t careless. They aren’t falsely repenting, and they aren’t always in crisis. They have learned to rule over their ungodly or misdirected desires; they aren’t compulsive. These Christians have come a long way in their walk with God, but they haven’t gotten to the point of losing it all for Christ. They are almost sold out, but there is enough of self left that situations arise where they place relationships with others ahead of their relationship with God. They do it in the name of God, not spitefully or maliciously, but ignorantly, not innocently, but not understanding that it isn’t their business to help everyone out if they won’t follow God. They backslide because they join the backsliders. They think they are helping the backslider come back to God, but the backslider is only interested in their own agenda. Or it manifests itself as those who partner with the world for seemingly good intentions, but they lose out and miss God in it all.

They aren’t like careless Christians; they’re not trying to do it wrong or not caring about it. However, they are deceived into thinking that just because their own lives are okay that they can do whatever they want as far as situations, circumstances, and partnerships go and God will just make everything all right. Well, He will protect you to an extent, but it will cost you something, and it will cost others more. They do many right things, and seek God, but in some things they strengthen themselves by the arm of the flesh instead of doing it God’s way. They create conflict in their own lives and especially for those who follow them and follow after them by aligning with those in conflict with God, or by avoiding controversy by capitulating to outsiders.

Our main character, although we will look at several, is Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Jehoshaphat's was a seeker after God (see 17:4, 19:3, 20:3), but sometimes he sought God second, after he had already made ill-advised plans and alliances first (18:4-6 / 2 Kings 3:11).

Marriage alliance – his son in marriage with Ahab’s daughter (2 Chronicles 18:1, 21:3-6)
Military alliance with Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:3)
Shipping alliance with Ahab’s son (2 Chronicles 20:35-37 / 1 Kings 22:48-49)
Military Alliance with two other kings (2 Kings 3:7-14)

2 Jehoram’s (Joram is Israel’s, son of Ahab) / 2 Ahaziah’s (Jehoahaz is Judah’s, son of Jehoram) Additional development and details in 1 Kings 22 / 2 Kings 3

17:1-3 – Jehoshaphat strengthens his borders against Israel
17:4-6 – Jehoshaphat follows after God and not after Israel’s ways
17:7-9 – Jehoshaphat sends out Levites to teach Judah the ways of God
17:10-11 – Jehoshaphat becomes very influential over his neighbors
17:12-19 – Jehoshaphat becomes great

18:1 – Jehoshaphat joins with Ahab, allowing his son to marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah – this union brought the idolatry of Athaliah’s mother Jezebel into Judah
18:2-3 – Ahab throws Jehoshaphat a feast, and Jehoshaphat consents to go with him to battle. The world will never give anything to a child of God without making large demands in return. Jehoshaphat should have known not to do evil that good might come. If we join with the world in its schemes, we must expect to be identified with it in its spasms. Now it was seemingly good because the city was a city of refuge that Israel had lost, but the devil doesn’t usually tempt us with outright evil he loves to get us to do much evil by doing some good. Jehoshaphat did not only fall into the snare himself, but he led others in also. How often do we hear Christians say, "How can such-and-such things be wrong, when we see so and so in connection with them, or engaging in them?" Such reasoning is utterly false; it is beginning at the wrong end. We are responsible to God to act upon principle, let others do as they may. We should be able, through grace, humbly, yet decidedly, to render a sound and intelligent reason for whatever course of action we may adopt, without any reference to the conduct of others. Moreover, we know full well that good men go astray, and do wrong things.
18:4-11 – The false prophets promise them success, but Micaiah foretells the death of Ahab. Even though Jehoshaphat called for a true prophet, and rebuked Ahab for saying that he hated that prophet, he failed to protect or even protest, when this servant of the Lord was abused. Instead of guidance, we may get a lying spirit (Ezekiel 14:1-4).
18:28-32 – I am as thou art – Jehoshaphat barely escapes after calling on God. Making the wrong alliances causes us to not seek God first; indeed that is why we made the alliance in the first place, because we thought of its benefit before we considered what God thinks of it. God honored Jehoshaphat’s cry for help in spite of Jehoshaphat’s sin.
18:33-34 – Ahab is slain, and Micaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled to the letter

19:1-3 – Jehoshaphat reproved by Jehu the prophet (not Jehu the king of Israel, but the son of Hanani, whom Asa, Jehoshaphat’s father dealt with harshly – 2 Chronicles 16:7-13 – Asa also sought the Lord fervently – 2 Chronicles 15:8-15 – but made wrong choices and alliances)
19:4 – Jehoshaphat brings reform to the kingdom
19:5-7 – He sets up court system and instructs the judges (no taking of gifts, lesson learned?)
19:8-11 – He sets up a supreme court at Jerusalem

20:1-13 – The land under invasion, Jehoshaphat & the people seek God by fasting and prayer
20:14-19 – They receive the promise of victory by prophecy, and worship with thanksgiving
20:20-25 – The enemies are overthrown, as they praise God, and the spoil is abundant
20:26-30 – They give thanks for the deliverance and for the blessings, and there is peace
Vs.22 – this was not the power of praise it was the power of God predicated upon the repentance we saw beginning in 19:4. It was not because they began to sing and praise but at the same time that they began to sing and praise. They turned to the Lord in repentance, and then they received word that God was going to deliver them, and they praised as God did His deliverance. It wasn’t that they’d never thought of praise, and that then God gave them some revelation about praise warfare, and that now we can all enjoy the blessing of that. It is not as if praise is the answer to all our problems. No, this wasn’t a revelation of praise warfare, as if we can just sing our way out of sin, without any reference to regard for or repentance from sin. This wasn’t some magic formula given that we now apply universally to all our situations. Indeed praise is a weapon of sorts, it is definitely part of the process, but it must be the outflow of an understanding of grace, and a natural consequence of having turned to the Lord in repentance. Otherwise praise IS NOT the answer to all your problems, and you cannot simply sing your way out of sin. They turned to the Lord in repentance, and then they received the message, and the message was about the fact God was going to deliver them, not about how praise was going to deliver them. The message God may give to you may be of a different sort, but then we praise as an outcome of that. We must also turn to the Lord in repentance first, and then receive the message of victory and then we can praise as God does His work. The thing to notice in this passage is not that praise won them the victory but that they turned to God and praised because He was going to deliver them.
20:31-34 – The conclusion of his reign (it ended in decline and was followed by disorder) 2 Chronicles 17:6, 19:3, 20:33 – he apparently slacked off on reforms (the people were responsible for the latter) (possible that he removed the pagan high places but not the ones dedicated to God, which were still bad, though – 1 Kings 3:2-4 / 2 Kings 17:32,41, 18:4 / 2 Chronicles 32:12, 33:17 – Good intentions do not always mean right actions).
20:35-37 – The ill-conceived shipping alliance. So determined is he to restore the unity of the nation that he keeps returning to it (2 Kings 3:7 – the alliance with the other kings)

21:1-3 – Jehoram (son who married Ahab’s daughter Athaliah) succeeds Jehoshaphat
21:4-7 – Jehoram is very wicked, kills his brothers, and practices idolatry
21:8-11 – Edom and Libnah revolt and Jehoram is still more wicked, causing Judah to sin
21:12-15 – Elijah prophesies against him
21:16-17 – His enemies plunder him
21:18-20 – His sickness and death – the Scriptures say he died with no one's regret.

22:1-4 – Jehoram’s youngest son (the only one left) Ahaziah reigns wickedly
22:5-9 – He allies with Israel and is killed by Jehu
22:10-12 – Athaliah (Jehoram’s wife) destroys the royal line (save Joash), usurps the kingdom. She introduced all of her idolatry and her wicked practices and attempts to murderously end the Davidic line. Eventually she was overthrown and Joash again established Judah in righteousness. Jehoshaphat’s reign was a successful one in the sense that he remained faithful to God throughout, but all that Jehoshaphat gained for Judah in prosperity, peace, and revival would be undone within a few years of his death because he tried to fellowship with idolaters.

There are several lessons to be learned here. Jehoshaphat went from teaming up with God’s enemy to fight other common enemies, to having no one to help but God, and he finds out that he doesn’t need others God will fight for him. When you are backed into a corner God will come out fighting for you, if you will let Him, and not form an alliance with the enemy. He went from surrounding others and losing to being surrounded and winning.

The story demonstrates that even the most ardent follower of God is not immune from backsliding. We cannot live in sin and expect not to have any consequences. The road to spiritual decline is often paved with success. Consider Solomon; his kingdom was on the incline while his spiritual life was on the decline. We must seek Him with our whole heart, and continually (Deuteronomy 4:29 / Psalm 119:2 / Psalm 145:18 / Jeremiah 29:13). You don’t have to make bad alliances to make your walk with God stronger you need to stay with God stronger and not make bad alliances. 2 Chronicles 15:2: For the Christian, He forsakes in the sense of not providing any power, victory, or ability to walk. The New Testament teaches that God is fully available to you if you are prepared to be fully available to him. If you are in a compromised situation you will have compromised your power. Luke 14:26 / James 4:4 – When someone’s character is not clear to you, look at his friends. Not only are we judged by the company we keep, but we also tend to take on as our own the characteristics of our friends (2 Corinthians 6:14 / Proverbs 13:20 / 1 Corinthians 15:33 / 1 John 4:5). Are your friends the friends of God?

Jehoshaphat allied himself: in a marriage, in a cause, and in a business venture, three areas where Christians are tempted to form contractual relationships with unbelievers. How frequently we stray from the truth, because we are linked in some kind of relationship from which we cannot remove ourselves. God is not saying that we cannot have business dealings with non-Christians, or that we cannot associate with them. But we are not to be bound together in a relationship from which we cannot remove ourselves. To be so means that we have to go their way and adopt their philosophy, and it always results in terrible distress and unhappiness and misery in our lives.

Beware of the call for the “unity” that promotes a compromise of one’s position rather than a godly unity. We must ask ourselves why Jehoshaphat ever thought of doing such a thing when his service and devotion to God had already achieved peace. We should safeguard against doing the very same thing in our own lives. The answer to this is not, "I cannot go with you because I am holier than you;" but, "I cannot not go with you because God is holy." This is the true principle. It is based upon what God is (not what we are) that we separate from known evil, and it is why we question questionable people. "Be ye holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).

We must pursue peace (Hebrews 12:14 / Romans 12:18), and do good, especially to those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). We must aim to restore our fallen brethren in a spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1). However, when someone has slid back, and especially when they have openly rebelled against God and the body of Christ, and continue to do so, reconciliation is only possible with repentance. You cannot restore those who won’t do it God’s way. You have to help them the way God wants to help them or you are hurting them and you are hurting others and you are hurting yourself. Good intentions do not always mean right actions. Desiring fellowship without desiring fellow faithfulness is a formula for future frustration, and it keeps you from experiencing the fullness of God.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Abundance for Obedience

…that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
(Colossians 1:9-10 – ESV)

An incentive to prayer – Paul and his team pray for increase to those that are acting in accordance with what they already have, implying that there is no reason to even ask God for increase in those that won’t use what they have already. It is not how much you know it is how much you grow. Contrary to what we most often think, it isn’t that we need an increase to be obedient; it is that we need to be obedient to see an increase (Mark 4:24-29). Even though the ground does the work in a way he cannot fully understand (vs.27) if that farmer doesn’t water and till the soil, the harvest will not come. When it comes, he is ready to reap, and to continue the cycle. If you stay put where you are at you will run out of food, we should be stirring up instead of staying put. Stir up the hope and stay in the faith. Learn who He is and He’ll show you what He does.

Paul is talking about spirituality, not economics. Money is not what Paul is addressing here, and we cannot apply it as a principle either, for the most part. We are not guaranteed earthly wealth for doing spiritual good. Now God does give to the generous (2 Corinthians 9), but usually a financial increase is not about our standard of living, but our standard of giving. Here Paul prays for an increase so that they will be increasingly obedient. Obedience and abundance spiritually go together. Paul was talking of abundance so as to obey, abundance for obedience.

As in Colossians 1:6 the increasing knowledge leads to using it, they were growing in their knowing and by more knowing they would have more growing and vice versa. It is the spiritual seed and harvest, coming to a full knowledge of His will and a full knowledge of His way.

They had faith and love because of the hope of heaven, now Paul wants them to increase to a more fully mature understanding, not leaving the other behind but coming to a more full and more fruitful understanding of God’s will in all things. He is talking about learning to live, as Jesus would have them live, in all situations. God is pleased if we have faith in Him and we love one another, but He also wants us to get to know Him better and learn new ways to be fruitful, filled so full that we might be fully pleasing.

By looking at the rest of Colossians, we know that it is not that they didn’t or that you won’t have any challenges. We know we will have trials and persecutions, but also doctrinal confusion and contention, and outright heresy, and subtler deception. These Colossians were doing good, and Paul was praying for an increase, but they did have issues. The power he was praying for was not to iron out those issues it was to endure trials and have joy, and also for their walk and their wisdom. That wisdom walk would be informed by their increasing knowledge of God.

Paul was praying for an increase, but to sort out issues Paul uses teaching. Just because everyone is getting along doesn’t mean everything is right. Doctrine, not devotion or demonstration is and was the key to discernment, to weeding out error. Right doctrine rightly understood should lead to the others in right practice. "The believer's experience" is not universal truth in the same sense as objective doctrine.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Supernatural Solidarity

...and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
(Colossians 1:8 – ESV)

A key to wisdom is sticking together in true fellowship based on truth (unity in verity). With a multitude of counselors there is wisdom (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). Not everyone has the same role or the same weight in every circumstance, but together the truth can be known, if we are on the same page with Christ (Philippians 3:15-19).

In the Spirit we are sealed for the eternal realm, one with Christ and one with the saints (1 Corinthians 6:17 / 2 Corinthians 1:22 / 2 Corinthians 5:5 / 2 Corinthians 13:14 / Galatians 4:6 / Galatians 5:5 / Ephesians 1:13-14). Grieving the Spirit by sinning against the saints causes dis-fellowshipping in the temporal realm (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit gives us an earnest expectation of the hope for pure fellowship (Romans 8:15-16). Philippians 2:1 – this is our fellowship because this is what we have in common, and what we know the Spirit is giving us and doing in us. Love for God leads to love for the saints, if we love the King we will love His kids.

Sadly, we do not see much of this sweet fellowship today in the church. I don’t mean grossly sentimental and saccharine, but supernatural and beyond fully understanding, like the farmer with the seed (Mark 4:27). It is fellowship but not necessarily feelings as such, it is the fellowship of faith, and faith acts, it does something, as we discussed earlier. It has been replaced with a worldly fellowship based around common interests and social, or economic status. Instead we should be fellowshipping around the cross of Christ, and the true fellowship of the Spirit, as Paul describes the fruit of such in verses 10-11, and of course in Galatians 5:22-23.

We do not have to be overly mystical about it, just as the farmer doesn’t have to be. He doesn’t know exactly how the seed grows he just waters and tills. We also must do what is necessary for allowing growth to happen. We have an earnest expectation of heaven, we too cry loud to God our Father, and we go about in true fellowship, not by some mystical “knowing” or should I say guessing whether someone is a believer or not. What and where is the fruit, that is the question. We cannot judge men’s souls, but we can and we must not let people peddle rotten fruit amongst us. It is supernatural but not superstitious. It is a divine fellowship but it works itself out in our mundane world, in our new natures, in what is then natural ways. Unregenerate people cannot have the same sweet fellowship, and we at least should be experiencing it, but this doesn’t mean that it is some mystical fellowship that seems spooky. It means we can be like Christ in trials, and handle any power we have with humility.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Accordance or Avoidance

…the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
(Colossians 1:5b-6 – ESV)

Referring back to the hope of heaven, Paul tells his hearers that they learned about this hope from the preaching of the Gospel (cf. Ephesians 1:13). The Gospel is about the truth that brings hope for believers, for this life and the next, for godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8 – ESV). The indicative of hope brings the imperative of faith.

The Gospel does bear fruit, wherever it goes, it does grow. You can see it in other places, and you can see it in other people. Are you looking for it, planting it, fellowshipping in it? What is more important? The word “understood” here means that we become fully acquainted with something; we know it, we experience it, and we live it. The more you know, or experience the truth, the more it will bear fruit. You know it intellectually, and then live it experientially, and then it bears even more fruit. John 8:31 (NLT) – Jesus said to the people who believed in him, You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings.

We can have a faith that forgets (2 Peter 1:8-9) or a faith that regrets (Mark 4:16-17). Faith is not works but faith does works (Hebrews 4:2 – those that heard and have faith entered in to the rest – they did something with what they heard, proving their belief). If you believe something you will act on it, because you have faith in it. True faith bears fruit. Faith acts. Of course faith in faith bears the fruit of faithlessness or faith in self, not faith in Christ and our eternal hope, which bears what is explained and prayed for by Paul, love for the saints, faith in Christ, endurance, joy, strength, and the other things that accompany true faith. It is faith in God, not in ourselves that produces fruit.

Heard it and understood – it must be both to bear the most fruit. True faith bears fruit. In Romans 10:17-19, Paul speaks of faith coming by hearing the Word. However in verse 19 he says that some hear the truth but do not understand, or know it. Some hear but don’t understand, they don’t really experience the truth, and they don’t live it. Faith comes by hearing but then true faith acts. Faith without works is dead, and a dead faith cannot be a born again faith. Faith apart from works dies out (James 2:26) – we either act in accordance or we will eventually act in avoidance. We will actively pursue the faith, or soon enough we will actively lose the faith (Mark 4:24-25). What is your experience?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hope in Heaven

…since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
(Colossians 1:4-5 – ESV)

When we see faith, hope and love in others we have discipled, it is an encouragement to and an incentive in prayer, as it was for Paul and his team. Recall Philippians 2:16-18 – Paul knew that his work really abided in people, so that if those people did not continue on strong with the Lord, there was a sense in which he felt his own ministry was in vain (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). This is the true heart of a shepherd, having fewer burdens for one’s self than for others, and not being content just with one’s own relationship with God, but longing to see others walking with the Lord. Paul was thankful that this church was trying to grow in the faith, and that is why he prayed for their increase (Colossians 1:9-11).

This wasn’t just a matter of feeling; it was a matter of fervency (1 Peter 1:22). It is not an emotional love, although it may have an emotional element to it. It is a love for the truth, a love for those in the truth, and a love to spread the truth. The fruit we see, faith in Jesus Christ and love for the saints are predicated on the hope we have in heaven. The more we focus on our heavenly destiny the more we will see and experience this fruit. This does not make us a bunch of monks living in a Christian ghetto, with an “us four and no more” mentality. On the contrary, such a hope is not to the exclusion of being active on earth, but to motivate us to action on earth. Our faithfulness and our fellowship will increase. What we love governs the way we live. Hope precedes faith, and faith precedes faithfulness.

John Piper, in his commentary on these verses, says this: Only one thing satisfies the heart whose treasure is in heaven: doing the works of heaven. And heaven is a world of love! It is not the cords of heaven that bind the hands of love. It is the love of money and leisure and comfort and praise – these are the cords that bind the hands of love. And the power to sever these cords is Christian hope. I say it again with all the conviction that lies within me: it is not heavenly-mindedness that hinders love on this earth. It is worldly-mindedness. And therefore the great fountain of love is the powerful, freeing confidence of Christian hope!

Look at what the Apostle says in 1 Peter 1:3-10, 13-17, 22 – we have a hope, so set your mind on that hope, and act in accordance with that hope. Peter and Paul agree – the harmony of the Scriptures – hope bears loving fruit.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Word or A Word?

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom…
(1 Corinthians 2:6 – ESV)

You ever notice something about the “words” people get from God that they have to give to you? They are usually very vague, and these "words" usually involve someone getting something, telling them that they are doing good, gaining prosperity, getting healed from an infirmity (while still engaging in the behavior that caused the infirmity) and on and on.

Why is that? Is it because they aren’t really getting “words” and they are just making them up? Or because they just misinterpret them? Or are we taking a period and making it a paragraph? Or because they just come that way, or what? It seems we are getting way too many “words” and we are missing way too much Word.

As far as getting “words from God” is concerned, we shouldn't swing the pendulum too far in either direction. To say that God cannot speak today is to say too much. However, to say that He is always speaking to us in ways outside of the Bible is to do the same thing. The truth is, most on the "words happen today" side go looking for that first, and they are very wrong to do so. Just because God could do so, and you don't find scripture that says He won't do so, doesn't mean He will do so. He certainly isn't doing it all the time, He never did anywhere in biblical times either. Biblical narrative is not biblical normative, and biblical persons are not by necessity biblical precedent for a continuing process.

Sure, they can happen, but to assume they are normative, or even necessary, is to look at things out of order. If it did happen, how would you recognize it if you don’t even know what He sounds like through His Word? How can you expect revelation if you haven’t even had illumination? Most people I have ever known who are truly expecting God by his Holy Spirit illuminating scripture have no time or inclination to go looking for words outside of the Bible. Too many go searching for these other things first, and they cannot even discern His voice in His Word, and so no wonder they go sailing off into the soil of their own imagination.


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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Compulsive Christianity

Judges 14-16

The third hurdle on the Highway to Holiness is Compulsive Christianity; it is a lack of discipline to purity that leads to acting on and being led by intuition and impulse while believing they are being led by the Spirit. They may simply be full of passion when they think they are full of the Spirit. When we don’t grow in maturity then our sense of empowerment becomes a sense of entitlement. What was meant to build them up brings them down. They may have powerful faith, but they have powerful feelings, and their compulsion is stronger than their conviction.

Careless Christianitylooking for an opportunity outside the will of God leads to idolatry while you think it is the favor of God – they get taken from, taken away, taken over, and taken out.

Crisis Christianityrebellion against the authority of God leads to false repentance while you think it is loyalty to God – they lose their place and they die after the altar or even at the altar.

Now we will look at another OT type that shows us believers who may be saved but they aren’t sold out. We saw that Careless Christians are not really walking in any fullness. Crisis Christians have achieved some things but they let other things rob them of God’s fullness in their lives. Compulsive Christians have seemingly great victories but they have to because they unnecessarily put themselves in harms way. They are in and out of God’s blessing and can even go in and out of His fullness. Their losses mount and they often become a casualty.

Compulsive Christianitymisusing the power of God leads to an immature and impatient faith while you think it is victory and vigor – they lose their strength, lose their witness, lose their leadership, and die with the enemy.

Today we want to take a look at one main character, the strongest man who ever lived. Samson, the last of the judges, is listed in the faith hall of fame (Hebrews 11:32), but he lived an up and down life, in one crises after another. When you have seen God move in your life and through your life, and yet you remain a Compulsive Christian, you may think it is all just great victories, but it is really more defeats. You see God’s power manifest in your life, but you are having to be rescued by God’s gift when you should be walking in more godliness and then you wouldn’t be so hit and miss. Proverbs 4:23 – we must be diligent about guarding our heart. Samson wasn’t and one lesson is this; your gift is not your guard. His power was overcome by his passion.

Judges 13:4-5, 24-25 – (Numbers 6:1-21) – if you will consecrate yourself to the task, the Lord will give you power to overthrow your enemies (sin and self). Samson was a Nazarite, not for a season, but for life. The vow of a Nazarite was about setting oneself apart for devotion to God. A Nazarite, by vowing not to cut their hair, drink no wine or eat no grape, and avoiding contact with anything dead was supposed to be disciplined. We are supposed to be disciplined to the point of giving up things we love, Samson wasn’t and his power became his problem. Jacob 600 years earlier – Genesis 49:16-17 / Judges 18:27 – He never fully committed so he never fully entered into what God had given him the power to achieve. David nearly 100 years later did. Through Jesus Christ God has given you the power to enter into His fullness, but we look aside to lesser things! We don’t value God high enough, we don’t really want it because we don’t think it’s worth it, or when we have a measure of it, we think we can’t lose it! Learn from Samson.

Three women Samson shouldn’t have seen: the Philistine girl in Timnah (14:1-15:6), the harlot in Gaza (16:1-3) and of course Delilah (Judges 16:4-20). When we don’t discipline ourselves, this is what happens to us, we act on impulse. Wrong attraction leads to wrong action.

Judges 14:1-4 – As soon as he sees her he wants to marry her, as if that justifies the impulsive behavior. People see something they know is wrong but they must have it, and they try and make it right with God afterwards. God used Samson in spite of his sin, not because of it. God would have used him in a greater way if he would have done things God’s way. Though God makes even the evil of men serve His purposes, it never justifies the evil they do (Acts 2:23). No matter how much good God can bring out of the bad things we do, He brings more good out of our obedience, and we experience less pain. It’s not that God won’t let you suffer (Philippians 1:29), but we should suffer for doing well not for doing wrong (1 Peter 2:19-20, 3:17).

Judges 14:5-9 – breaks one part of vow – Not supposed to have anything to do with grapes (be in the vineyard) or touch a dead body (getting the honey from the dead Lion’s carcass). Significantly, Samson did this after he was exceptionally filled with the Holy Spirit. This shows that even an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not automatically make you godlier. It gives you the resources to be godlier, but it doesn't "do it to you." A person can be wonderfully gifted by the Holy Spirit and yet very spiritually immature. That is a major problem among Christians today; people presume giftedness is godliness. That dead thing may have something sweet in it, but it may be poison. He didn’t tell his parents where he got the sweet stuff because they would know he broke his vow. To the victor belong the spoils, but sometimes the spoils will do just that, spoil you. He had outward consecration but not a real inward communion. Eventually what is on the inside will come out, as we see with Samson.

Judges 14:10-11 – this was literally a drinking party (breaks another part of vow) which was the custom of the land. Samson may not have partaken, but he put himself in a place where it could easily happen. When 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says “Abstain from all appearance of evil” we must take into consideration that we cannot avoid looking bad to some people. To those we would say this: if you look for sin, you will find it, but how about looking in the mirror first, you will find all you can handle right there. However, here Samson was on the downward slide. Don’t fool yourself; you cannot just act like the world just because someone else does. It will cost you.

Judges 14:12-20 – Samson poses a riddle as a wager for fine clothing, but his wife tells the others the answer. He did what he shouldn’t have done, acting impulsively to get her, and couldn’t stand the nagging, he gives in and he loses the gamble. He gets mad and destroys thirty of the enemy’s men to pay off the debt. The Spirit of the Lord did not come upon Samson to avenge the hurt feelings of a husband. God's strategy was larger: (Judges 14:4). Therefore He used this occasion to pour out His Spirit on Samson to fight against the Philistines. Of course, he loses his wife in all of this. That compulsive sin you entertain will nag you until you give in. The answer that the Philistines gave back to Samson is clever because it not only answers Samson's riddle, but it humiliates him at the same time. What is sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion? Love, of course! Their riddle not only told him the answer to his riddle, it hinted at how they got the answer, through his own lover. That’s what happens when you are a compulsive Christian; you get riddled about, back and forth, a victim of your own plots. When you compulsion is greater than your conviction, this is what happens.

Judges 15:1-20 – Samson finds out he has lost his wife and becomes enraged. God is going to use Samson’s anger for His purposes, but this doesn’t justify Samson. God used Samson greatly, but it cost him greatly. He could have been blessed if he had done things God’s way. Often when God uses a compulsive Christian, people get helped but the person gets hurt. He sets the crops of the Philistines on fire. They retaliate by killing his wife and her father. Samson then slaughters some of them mercilessly and retreats to a hill. The Philistines follow with a greater company of men. Now Samson shows great faith, by letting the men of Judah take and deliver him over to the Philistines. Then the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him again, and he kills 1000 men with only the jawbone of a donkey. After the great battle he grows very thirsty, and he turns to God, acknowledging Him for the deliverance, and asking for help, acknowledging his weakness. God miraculously provides water for him. It is like a church member who listens to the correction of others and becomes disciplined or submits to discipline, he or she is given the power to overcome with a great victory. God will always provide for God’s work, done God’s way. When you do it right God will do you right. God can get you the victory no matter what the odds.

Judges 16:1-3 – Now after all this good Samson gets compulsive again, he has developed no self-control. He has not disciplined himself, and he falls for the wrong thing again. Even Christians who are mightily used by God can fall into blatant sin. He wasn’t fully devoted to God; he compartmentalized his life. Like Samson, many see God’s stuff for ministry but not for maturity. Jesus lays claim to our entire lives, and ministry without maturity is meaningless to us as far as growth is concerned. Despite his sin, and because of God’s greater purpose, Samson is able to use his supernatural strength to escape the Philistines when they try and take him again.

Judges 16:4-21 – Delilah enters the picture. She probably did have strong feelings for Samson, but her need for wealth overcame her need for warmth. 1100 pieces of silver were over 140 lbs., and so this was a lot of money. Eventually, compulsion is willing to pay any price. Samson knew he was on the hook, but he thought he could be cleverer than his compulsion, he hadn’t learned from his riddled relationship before. So he lies to Delilah, not once, not twice, but three times. You’d think he would have the sense to stop all this and leave her, knowing what she wants to do to him. He thinks he has everything under control, but he is being controlled. He gives in as he did before to the constant nagging. You keep giving in to that thing and it will find a way to finally conquer you. It will never leave you alone until you leave it alone. You can’t just play it off and play around you have to stop sleeping on her knees and get out her tent! Now Samson has his hair cut (so he has completely broken his vow). A threefold cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12) but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. It took nearly 20 years for this to happen but it did. Samson's strength was not in his hair, it was in his relationship with God. He worked against that relationship to the point where God finally departed from him, in the sense that Samson lost his supernatural strength. When your compulsion finally triumphs over your conviction, God does what it takes to get us to depend on Him for real. What does God have to do, pluck out your eyes so that you will see how blind you are?

Judges 16:22-31 – His inward slavery became outward in manifestation, yet still there was hope. Samson’s hair, and we suppose his heart for God, were coming back. When we get this far-gone we have to bear the torment of our captors, but we must cling to God. We thought our compulsion was only hurting us, but it is victory for the enemy. We lose our spiritual strength, sight, leadership and witness. The strength God will give us then is so that we may die to self. Samson in his life was a picture of you and me in our weakness, and a picture of God and His saving work in Christ in his strength. Samson in his death is a picture of Christ, bringing justice and taking the wrath upon Himself, and it is a type of those who die to self being crushed with their sins. If Samson can do it, so can you, because Jesus died for that compulsiveness, and He can set you free from it. Now we are going to go over some thoughts about this problem.

If you don’t grow in character then you grow in compulsion and your own charisma will be the cause of your collapse. Your power becomes your problem. Your strength becomes your weakness. You rely on your gift instead of relying on God. If your character doesn’t grow in proportion to your anointing, it will crush you. Proverbs 18:16 says that a man’s gift makes room for him, but the Bible also teaches us here that a man’s gift makes doom for him if he doesn’t guard his heart. 1 Corinthians 9:27 – Paul knew this lesson and warns us that just because others are helped doesn’t mean you are holy. Perhaps the ultimate example is Judas Iscariot. You could do all the exploits of Jesus, but more important than being conformed to the image of His charisma is being conformed to the image of His character. Instead of using God’s tools we need to become His tool, His workmanship, and allow our communion with Him to change our inside.

If you aren’t obeying you aren’t being empowered by God, even of there is a measure of it in other areas of your life. Whoever empowers you you’re obligated to obey, and if it is disobedience because of a lack of discipline, you will become a slave to your compulsiveness.

Now don’t look down at Samson or others you know because you’re compulsion is to something little or not so bad, in your opinion. We are not talking only about compulsion with regards to habitual sins, but also compulsive behavior in the use of spiritual gifts and things like that. When we don’t have a disciplined spiritual life, and one that is growing, then we can be spiritually compulsive or impulsive and out of order. We won’t be trusting in the timing of God.

James 1:8 – ID (impulse / discipline) problem. To be led by the Spirit is to be a disciple, and disciplined, not led by intuition and/or intentions. Many think being filled with the Spirit means we can trust our feelings but being filled with the Spirit means we can test our feelings.

The problem is that many seek only an outward manifestation, a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit at work extrinsically, rather than an inward transformation, a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit at work intrinsically. This leads to an inconsistent spiritual life, where one keeps getting seemingly moved by the Spirit but does not get moved within their spirit. They may soon become dependent upon continual “signs” to keep them in the flow spiritually (psychologically).

As a consequence, the believer seeks to imitate or duplicate this “power” within their personal life, and begins to rely on feelings, impressions, etc., believing that they are being Spirit-led. A wrong view of God develops, and God and His leading becomes a projection of their best feelings. They bring God down to their level, and presume their intentions to virtue are God given. But our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and we must depend on the continuing counsel of God’s Word, not on our feelings. The Psalm of David needs to be prayed – Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins (Psalm 19:13).

Faith is not an impulse; it is not compulsive in nature. Many who operate under impulse power think they are moving in “the anointing” but really what they’ve got is not the anointing but the annoying. We think being spiritual or moving in the Spirit is being disciplined to be impulsive, as if we are now learning to trust our feelings. Instead it is learning to rule over our feelings, not that we are dispassionate or unfeeling, but we learn to process thoughts, cast down imaginations, and be pressing on to the mark of the high calling, which is character, not charisma.

We want instant godliness so we walk the aisle grab hold of the altar wail and howl and have a fit but we don’t attach concrete action to our decision. It is half hearted and it won’t work for long. We want to get all of life fixed in one sweeping moment and that is only impulsive behavior. We treat a certain prayer or meeting or decision to be like superman going to the telephone booth we come out and presto super Christian but that won’t do it. A consistent walk it is not created in a singular moment, a day, a week, or even a year, but by a moment-by-moment choice to line your will up with God’s. Sweeping changes are often swept under the rug of regret when we cannot have it all right now, but impulsiveness is what got you in your predicament in the first place!

To begin the process of discipline, realize that new beginning each day (Lamentations 3:21-26 / Philippians 3:14). Get in a routine; you have to put God in your routine. People think they’ve waited so long that they’ve paid they price but they haven’t paid the price and that’s why they’ve waited so long. Pay the price daily (1 Corinthians 15:31-34).

Have you ever met someone who is an adult in years and who thinks this automatically makes him or her a mature adult, when clearly they aren’t? Maturity is not marked by years but by learned experience, wisdom, and prudence. Some never submit to the refiners fire and so therefore God has not fashioned and forged them for their ministry. Some naïve novice may enter into the upper echelons of the visible church world but they have not entered into the wisdom of God and when their platform is shaken they have no foundation and they will fall hard. We long to have great spiritual insight and strength without daily seeking God. We desire to be great teachers and preachers of the Bible but never spend time searching and studying the Scriptures! There are no short cuts. We must deny the lesser to gain the greater! Discipline is hard work, but there is pleasure and fulfillment in working hard and attaining a goal. You don’t really want it because you don’t think it’s worth it. Deny yourself and find the fullness of God.

Build before the storm hits; crisis time is not the time, prevention not reaction. Build for the one time you need it, not for the regular times you don’t really need it as much. If you are not sowing when the times are good, you will have nothing to eat when they aren’t. Not because every day is a calamity but because one day it will be. For people that don’t build every day is a calamity. Don’t wait till the well runs dry. Don’t be overconfident, remember Samson, don’t let your marriage, finances, spiritual life slip. Be in spiritual communion, not in selfish compulsion.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Elderly Care

Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him
(James 5:14 – ESV)

It should be the ordinary way of things that members come to the elders for special prayer in special situations (James 5:13-20). Many times we go looking for answers elsewhere first, when we should be availing ourselves of the means of grace first, including our elders (1 Peter 5:1-11). The truth is that the love of the elders for the flock is a covering for you (James 5:20 / 1 Peter 4:8). Of course if you run out from under the umbrella and into the rain, you will get wet. They cannot stop that, but they can call you back to shelter. They cannot pay for your sins but they can pray for your sins, and God has put them in place to help you back into the fold.

It is the role and responsibility of the elders to shepherd the flock of God humbly and ably. It is the role and responsibility of the congregant to call on, submit to, pray for, and abide by the elders and their care. Are we examples of humility to one another, knowing our roles and exercising them rightly, not using them for show or for selfish ends, and not to force people but that they are willingly submitting to each other? Are we humbling ourselves under the hand of God, which is demonstrated by a godly submission to each other in our roles and in our responsibilities to God and to one another? Are the elders eager to help (do they answer the call), and are the congregants willing to be helped (do they call at all)?

Don't assume that God will aid you in a way that avoids or evades the ordinary way. The elders are there for a reason. Their admonition and nurture is important. They don't dole out grace with a ladle, but God has appointed them to serve your spiritual needs. Do you recognize and submit to the authority God has placed them in due to their role? If you need special prayer because of trouble brought about by your sin, do you admit that you are to blame, not others, not the devil, and not some so-called generational curse, but you who are to blame? The world and the devil only enflame what is already there, and where there is no fuel the fire dies out. Will you confess your faults, all of them that pertain to the issue, the ones that have led to being prayed for, so that you may be healed?

We must realize that prayer is only part of the process, and that persistence (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9), and perspective (1 Peter 5:9 / James 5:17-18), are what lead to progress (James 5:15 / 1 Peter 5:10). You must then stay on the road, if you go back it is harder to get back, and the going will be worse than before (John 5:14 / Luke 11:24-26). Stay in the elderly care center.


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Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Secret to the Spiritual Life

…and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
(Judges 13:5)

Samson began to deliver Israel but he didn’t finish the job. Although he finished in faith, he never fully committed so he never fully entered into what God had given him the power to achieve. David finished off the Philistines nearly 100 years later. You see, they were going to be delivered, God’s purposes cannot be thwarted, but Samson did not see it in his lifetime because he did not enter into all the fullness of what God had given him the power to do.

You are delivered from the power of sin but you may not see it in your lifetime because you will not fully give your life to God as He shows you areas to give to Him. Like Samson, you don’t really want it because you don’t think it’s worth it. If that is the case, you may see deliverance, but you will never walk in the fullness of the great deliverance on this side of heaven as much as God would allow you to. Most believers are just like Samson in this, the question is why?

I want to reveal something as to why we don’t walk in God’s fullness and why we don’t want to. We never seem to get our want to in gear, and it is because we don’t understand something. Almost no one has considered this, and that is why almost no one today walks in God’s fullness.

Think about how Samson’s exploits became more and more pronounced, his deliverance was greater and greater, yet his sin actually was worse and worse. The lion (14:5-6) and the linen (the thirty) (14:19), then the foxes and the fire (15:4-8), then Judah and the jawbone (15:11-16), then the fortress (the escape from being surrounded) (16:2-3), and the festival (16:23-30). First he wanted someone outside (liken this to an unbeliever), then he wanted a harlot, then he actually wanted the sworn enemy. His deliverance was increasing, but his discernment was decreasing. How could Samson be seemingly growing in the power of God and yet still turn back to his sins, and why would he want to? He was growing in the power of God, but not the person of God.

Through Jesus Christ, God has given all believers the Holy Spirit, God has given you the power to enter into His fullness, but we look aside to lesser things! We don’t value God high enough, we don’t really want it because we don’t think it’s worth it, or when we have a measure of it, we think we can’t lose it! Learn from Samson.

Samson was using more and more power, God’s deliverance was greater and greater, but he got worse and worse in sin because he never did fully sell out to God, and eventually that power becomes the very thing that destroys you. It keeps you, not from walking in the fullness at all, but from living in it, because you never fully surrender you life and so you stop short of all that God has for you. You thought it was all about power to perform, but it is more about power to deliver you and then to deliver others from sin and oppression. That is what walking in God’s fullness is, because in heaven, amongst God’s fullness there will be no sickness or sorrow. Why, not because He will use power to take it away but because it won’t be there in the first place because sin is what causes these things!

Now here is the answer as short as I can give it. We only taste of the fullness and think that this is all there is, and so we are still tempted by the other things, we thought we have arrived when we see and feel and know the power of God, but we haven’t done all the itinerary yet, there is more. We taste of the fullness, but we are only at the table, there is much more there. The secret to the spiritual life: stay hungry. You won’t live in it until you taste and see, and then instead of saying it is not enough and going back, you say it is not enough and you go forward. Stay hungry for God, not for self, and you will not only know the fullness you will walk in it. And you may even be one of the few who live in it.

Samson got to a place where he had a choice, and he chose his fleshly wants time after time, compulsively. When you get to that place that you have a choice, you won’t feel God’s power to deliver right then, that is what people expect and when they don’t feel it that is why they fail. Don’t expect to feel the power, what you will feel is the pain, the hurt of not doing what you wanted to do, and then later you will feel God’s power. It doesn’t seem worth it now, in fact it seems worse, it seems negative, but later you will not regret it when you know God’s fullness in a greater measure. Remember that feeling, and think about that, renew your mind to that when the temptation comes. It will hurt, perhaps worse and worse for a while, maybe a long while, depending on how much flesh has to die, but when you come through it will be more than worth it. When walking in the fullness you never fully taste all there is at the table, and so you stay hungry. The others achieve a measure and think they are full and so other delights look appealing, and familiar food (sins) seems to satisfy. Deny yourself, learn what it is like to continue in God’s fullness, and to stay hungry for Him.

Many have indeed tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8 / 1 Peter 2:3), but some take no more in and starve (Hebrews 6:5). Jesus says we must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, not to simply try it on our lips and tongue, but to swallow it all. Not just taste and see, but swallow and be. Some do go further and eat, some make it a meal, and some, precious few, but some make it their regular diet, and feed on nothing else.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pain to Power

as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
(1 Peter 4:1)

Now we need to look at this verse carefully, because many think it is talking mostly about Christ, and has little to do with us. That is not the truth. The truth is that the last part of the verse isn’t speaking of Christ but us. Want proof? Well look at it, did Christ ever sin? No, well then, it is speaking about us ceasing from sin by suffering in the flesh.

This is what Peter is telling us to arm our minds with, this very fact. Christ suffered in the flesh for our sins, most recognize that easily. But now, if we will suffer in the flesh then we will realize this power and cease from sin. Not all sin right away or ever, actually, but instead, in a very real way making very real progress in the process of sanctification. You suffer in the flesh over certain sins, and you cease from them, and move on to the next thing you have to suffer. We live the cross life, and live in resurrection power.

This is the truth. You walk through the pain to get to the power. Most think they walk into power so they can walk through the pain, but Jesus, when He healed people, they were already in pain, and then they got the power. Jesus died on the cross before He rose again in resurrection power. His power is already there; you must go through the pain to realize it. You scream God help me, well, as a Christian He already has, will you walk into it, do you believe it? Renew your mind to this truth, as this verse declares it. The power you pray for is already there; go to it.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Trouble With Togetherness

…and they shall become one flesh
(Genesis 2:24 – ESV)

Have you ever wondered why men and women who work together in a movie fall in love so often? Or why people who work together at the job fall for each other so often? Or why when you start helping a friend out, working together to solve a problem, and you do it together and it works out good, then you want to fall for them? Well think about it. What is the same in all these scenarios? The people work together toward a common solution, and doing this has bonded them together for a common cause. Both are in unison and harmony about it. They both have different talents but they combine them, they work together to achieve something.

Think hard now about the words “work together” and their meaning. Work together, work together, working or coming together. See? Not just working side by side but working into togetherness, into a unit. You share a significant event in your life together. You overcome something by being together, and that is what good marriages are made of and good relationships are made of. It is no wonder if people aren’t processing things well, or they aren’t in a relationship, or the current one is not going well, for them to want to come together with that person they have already bonded with successfully. What do you expect?

People should be able to work together without working themselves together. We must mature to the point that the trouble with togetherness doesn’t enter into our lives, else we cannot partner and accomplish things we might be able to do otherwise. We must remain closely knit to our spouses as one flesh so that people can work with us together, but no one else can work their way together with us. If your relationship has depth you won’t drown in these shallow waters.


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Why? Because.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:8 – ESV)

The question is often asked: if God were good and loving why would He send people to hell? Well, it is because He cares about you. “What’s that”, you say? Yes, that is what I meant to say, God sends people to hell because He cares about people.

Let’s think this through carefully. Isn’t it true that if someone hurts your child, you want to make sure they are punished and that they don’t do it again? You hurt so badly for your little one to have gone through the ordeal. Friend, God feels that way about what you have gone through. He hurts worse than you do. Think about it; wouldn’t it be terrible to see one of your children maliciously hurt by another one of your children? It would hurt, but you would have to separate them, wouldn’t you?

Now think about this; if someone brutally tortured and killed your family, you would want justice done, wouldn’t you? A person like that would deserve to die, wouldn’t they? Well, God thinks so too, because He loves your family even more than you do. He loves with an eternal love, and so He punishes the perpetrator with all the hurt He feels for you and for them.

Yes God is good and loving, and because He is good and loving He takes justice out on those who have done unloving acts, avenging those whom were unjustly hurt, including Himself. Because He is so good and loving He punishes those unjust acts with eternal punishment. That is how much it matters to Him that people hurt other people. And yet because He is so good and loving He also takes the wrath on Himself, for those who believe, by pouring it out on His own Son, Jesus. So why does God send people to hell? It is because He loves you.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday Spotlight – Thirsty Theologian


When discussing blog sites that are truly more than “must visits”, they are absolute “must stops” on your every day browsing, there are really not as many as you might think. Sure, there are lots of great Christian sites, and some cater to certain interests and all are good stuff, indeed. However, there are some sites that you just have to go to every day. They save time, effort, and allow you to focus on all the current issues with a Christian perspective.

Now let me get real and personal with you. I think my site is great for devotional and doctrinal material, it is intended as my pastoral outreach and overflow, a labor of love. But this site doesn’t always hit all the topics (though it some times does) as they are coming down the pike. That is not what our primary focus is here; it is biblical exposition and commentary, hopefully accurate and insightful at that. Now some sites do give the news, and they are known for it, and they may even be seen as negative, but I am glad they are out there. Still, one site that I visit every day gives you many different perspectives, all Christian of course, mostly Reformed, and certainly Biblical and/or conservative, and also posts his own stuff. This site gives you the best of the Christian blogosphere each day: covering news, devotion, doctrinal issues, biblical exposition, sermons, and on and on, this site does it all. He even has a very good sense of humor.

What place has fine thought stimulating posts, and collects links to other great posts nearly every day, and has permanent links to all the best bloggers of the blogosphere? Where can you find all this treasure wrapped up in one place? The Answer: The Thirsty Theologian

David Kjos (pronounced Chos – like boast with out the b or t) does all this and he moderates over at Challies, a high honor, in my opinion. He was even nominated King for A Week (THE most highly prized award in this corner of the Blog World). Do yourself a big favor, go see what I am talking about, and bookmark that site, you won’t regret it. Folks, this is a Christ centered, God honoring site that I recommend without reservation, and that to me is saying a lot. Thirsty Theologian, the spotlight is on you…


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Thursday, April 12, 2007

You’ve Been MACED…



Recently, that Canadian Christian Conspirator, also known as Daniel , did something you might not expect from such an esteemed one...

He maced me…yep, you read that right...

And then, all of a sudden Pastor Garry Weaver decides to pick on the little guy, too...there I was , maced again...

Unbelievably, perhaps, I was honored...something's up, right?

Yes, that’s right, he placed me in a very select category, to which I will now place others, and so to those I say…

Because of your consistent witness and edifying presence in the blogosphere…

You’ve been maced

In a good way, that is, with Christian blogger blessings….

The participation rules are simple:

1. If you get tagged by this meme, write a post that links to as many other blogs as you believe worthy of receiving this award - you need not be tagged personally to do this, but it is unlikely you will find out about it otherwise.

2. Link to this post so that people will [a] understand what the award is all about and [b] be able to see where the meme started.

3. Optional: You can display the 'Oikodomeis Award' in your blog banner with a linking to either the post wherein your blog was nominated, or back to the original post.

4. To use the award image, copy it to your own image server, as I cannot vouch for the longevity of that particular image on my own image server.

Now realizing the very prestigious nature of this award, and with the understanding that this award must be earned with consistency and over the course of time…(that is to say, there may be others forthcoming)…

My nominations are (drum roll please)…

Daniel

Hey the man who started it is the epitome of it, IMHO…

Jonathan

Anyone who knows this man and his blog would agree…

Brad

A pastor’s heart, ‘nuff said…

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Keep Learning

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 19:27 – ESV)

If we’re not in the Word of God, then we’re not in the will of God, so we won’t have the wisdom of God, therefore we will be taken captive by the wooing of the world, the wants of the flesh, and the wiles of the devil.

We are all in a spiritual battle. There is no reason for you to believe that you will be successful in Spiritual warfare without having your sword sharpened and your armor on (Ephesians 6:10-18). If we are in an intimate, present reality, dynamic relationship with Christ, we will be invincible, in a sense. But when we look away from Jesus we, like Peter, begin to see the storms of life, and sink under our own weight of unbelief.

God wants communion with us; if we become lax in our prayer life, Bible study, and our corporate worship, fellowship, and stewardship, we will suffer. No matter how long we have been a Christian or how many verses we have memorized, our flow will be hampered. It is our constant communion with God that gives the Word its power in our personal lives. It is the Spirit that gives life. To stop the flow of communication means that using the Bible can become an exercise in our own strength, a one-way street where you just go to the Word when you feel like you need it. You can’t bottle the blessings of God (Exodus 16:15-21); that is why we are to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).

The wisdom from God is predicated upon a present tense relationship with Him. No amount of “build up” or maturity can take this fact away. Want proof? How about Solomon: Once he strayed from God, he sank into apostasy. If it can happen to the wisest man who ever lived, then surely it can happen to us. Consider also Samson and Saul; if your character doesn’t grow in proportion to your anointing, it will crush you.

Modern day examples abound. Consider the great preachers who had anointing by the barrelful yet fell all the way down the mountain because they trusted in the past without tending to the present, treating God as a means to an end, rather than their relationship with Him being the purpose itself. He is not a cosmic concierge, waiting at our beck and call.

Looking to our own lives, and the corporate life of the local churches, we cannot simply rest on our laurels. Leaders are to set the example, to live by a higher standard so that those who follow have something to look forward to. When called to lead we must do exactly that: lead, not lounge. We must move forward, not sit idle. We must continue to learn if we are to continue to lead, else we will learn, the hard way.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Okay, Okay, I'll Play!





Well, what am I supposed to do when three highly esteemed bloggers all separately award me with the "thinking blogger" award? Say thank you, and play along I guess...

First, Sista Cala a true up and comer in the blogging ranks, gave me one

Next, Annette , she of the many, many links, gave me another one

And now, your friend and mine, the funniest blogger in the universe,

Craver VII has bestowed one more upon me

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Now for my fabulous five...

1. Daniel

2. David

3. Douglas

4. Jonathan

5. Brad

BTW, how do you get one of those award buttons to appear in your sidebar...I haven't been able to think that one through, yet!


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Recognize and Realize

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 6:11 – ESV)

There is a difference, perhaps subtle, but a difference nonetheless, between recognition and realization. Most would see these terms as synonyms for the same thing, namely that they both mean to come to an awareness of something. However, for the purposes of our discussion, and for clarity in our understanding of how sanctification works, we point out the process of progress using these two words. This distinction will help us tremendously as we move along the process in our progress toward sanctification. Conversely, the lack of a distinction in these terms can cause a hindrance in our growth. We misunderstand what recognition means, and therefore we fail to achieve realization in our lives.

As we come to know something, in that we become aware of its reality, its presence, and its importance, we can be said to recognize it. Now when we go from a mere awareness to a more full understanding, or apprehension, what we are doing is realizing something. To recognize something is to spot it, to realize something is to capture it.

See the difference? Now lets make it real, shall we?

Again, there is a difference between the two and it can be stated thus. Recognizing something is about seeing it. Identifying, acknowledging something. Realizing is about being it. We internalize it, we make it real to our situation, and we cash in on the idea.

For example, we go from recognizing there is sin in the world and that you have sinned into realizing that you are a sinner when you find yourself doing it in practice. We go from recognizing that Jesus paid for your sins to realizing it in the practice of sanctification in your life. You see a verse many times, read it and even meditate on it, but then one day the Holy Spirit applies that verse because it jumps out at you and you see it for your life, it becomes real.

In some ways, the difference between recognition and realization is the difference between the indicative and imperative. You know what the Word says about you, and then you become what it means for you. If you can recognize the fact, then you can realize the future.

Let's go from seeing it to being it.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Secret Salvation

…they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
(Romans 2:14 – ESV)

There is no secret way to God – 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.

It is an incorrect interpretation to say that book of Romans hints 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. Paul does not say that anyone who "responds" to general revelation will be saved. Rather, he 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. We aren’t talking about charity groups here. I am talking about closed societies, special knowledge, and secret things. The 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 (Deuteronomy 29:29).

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. 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).

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saturday Sermon: The Reality of the Resurrection

John 2:18-22

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and the key to answering most objections raised against the gospel. If you remove the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Christianity, you don't have Christianity. What I want to talk about today are Reasons to believe the Resurrection, and Ramifications of the Resurrection.

Reasons to Believe in Jesus’ Resurrection (1 Peter 3:15)

1. Predictions – Both the Old and New Testaments contain predictions of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Many times in the Gospels, as with our text today, Jesus told his disciples and the Jewish leaders that He would be raised again to life after being put to death.

2. Power – Jesus’ resurrection was not simply a remarkable finish to a regular life. Jesus had consistently demonstrated His control over creation from turning water into wine, feeding the five thousand, walking on the water, healing the sick, raising Lazarus from the dead, and so on. His resurrection is consistent with the power He demonstrated during His earthly ministry.

3. Passion – John 10:17-18 – Jesus had avoided fatal confrontations numerous times before. (Luke 4:29-30 / John 7:30, 44, 8:59, 10:39, 11:8). He chose when to die, and He did die.

4. Politics – Matthew 27:62-66 – the Jewish authorities wanted to put a stop to people believing in Him. Even with support from the Roman authorities, they were never able to produce a body. The tomb was empty then and still is today!

5. Panicked guards – Matthew 28:11-15 – The guards knew their lives could be at stake if they failed in their duty, but on the third day Jesus was gone. No one has ever found any credible evidence that the body of Jesus was anywhere to be found on this earth. Jesus is risen indeed!

6. Puzzled disciples – Luke 24:13-32 – After Jesus’ arrest, most of His disciples fled. It is clear from their reaction that they were not anticipating the resurrection. Two of his disciples did not recognize the risen Jesus even as He was teaching them the Scriptures related to Himself. They clearly were not part of some preplanned story.

7. People – Acts 1:3 / 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 – After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people. We do not have a record of anyone disputing their testimony.

8. Preaching – The Apostolic martyrs – People don’t die for something they know to be a story. Yet, many of these eyewitnesses accepted death rather than deny the resurrection of Jesus.

9. Pessimists – Non-Christian historians reported that Jesus was reputed to have risen from the dead and that his followers were willing to die rather than recant their belief in Jesus.

10. Paraclete – John 16:8-11 – Over the centuries, the Holy Spirit continues to convict unbelievers and assure believers that Jesus is the risen Son of God. Of course, it takes the Holy Spirit to make the reality of the Resurrection real to our hearts.

We don’t believe in the resurrection in spite of the facts, we believe in the resurrection in light of the facts. Now, the real question isn’t what proves the resurrection but what does the resurrection prove? What questions does the resurrection answer?

Ramifications of the Resurrection (1 Peter 1:3-4)

1. Is there a God who is active in the world? Jesus’ resurrection shows there is a power that transcends the physical universe, a power that can override decay and death. Jesus’ resurrection declares God’s active involvement in this world. He planned it from the beginning and He performed it at the appointed time (1 Peter 1:18-21). Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates Romans 8:21-23 – all creation is subject to decay and will be renewed.

2. What difference does God make to my life? Jesus’ resurrection shows that He lives into eternity and that we can too (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Knowing we have a soul that continues after death impacts our perspective on life (1 Corinthians 15:32). Matthew 28:18-20 / Ephesians 1:19-20 – In resurrecting Jesus, God declares His absolute sovereignty over life and death.

3. Is the Bible true? Jesus’ resurrection proves the Bible is true. Every religion has their holy books. Jesus’ resurrection confirms that Jesus is the source of truth. He declared which book is actually a revelation from God. Jesus affirmed the inspiration of the Old Testament. He promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the apostles as they shared His teaching through the New Testament (John 14:26). Peter in Acts 2 and Acts 4 (and Paul in Acts 13 and Acts 26) used the Resurrection as proof the scriptures are true. They knew the Scripture promised a resurrection. They knew Jesus in speaking New Testament scripture promised a resurrection, and when it happened, they believed the Scripture. The resurrection of Jesus Christ should affirm our faith and confidence in the truth and the inerrancy of Scripture. If Jesus doesn't rise, Psalm 2 is wrong, Psalm 16 is wrong, Isaiah 55 is wrong, any other Old Testament passage indicating the resurrection of Jesus Christ is wrong, and therefore the Bible cannot be trusted. But if Jesus rises from the dead, the prophecies are true, and the Word of God is true. Luke 24:25-27 – the OT is replete with the idea of a Messiah who dies and yet lives again, and in both testaments we see types and shadows of the resurrection. Typology of Elisha bones (2 Kings 13:20-21) Lazarus (John 11:25-26, 39-44) and those who came out of the graves at his resurrection (Mathew 27:52-53). 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – this is why Paul says these things were according to the scriptures. This is why they made it central (Acts 4:2 / 2 Timothy 1:10, 2:8).

4. Does God love me? Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates God’s love for you (Romans 5:8-11)

5. What about life and death? We can trust Jesus’ testimony because of the resurrection. Job 14:14 – "If a man die, shall he live again?" remains the fundamental question haunting all men today. Job 19:25-26 / Psalm 17:15 / John 18:37-38 – The resurrection gives Him firsthand knowledge. He has been beyond death and returned. Jesus testifies to the truth regarding eternal life. John 14:19 / 1 Corinthians 6:14 / 2 Corinthians 4:14 / Romans 8:11 / 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 / Hebrews 2:10-15 – The resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to our own resurrection, a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same.

6. Why should I believe Jesus is God’s Son? The Resurrection proves the deity of Jesus. Jesus conquered the grave, something no mortal can claim. He said, “I and the Father are one.” His victory over death confirms His claim to be the Son of God. In scripture you have many people proclaiming this fact, like Peter, Mark, Luke, Matthew, Nathaniel, Thomas, Martha, John the Baptist, the Roman solider at his crucifixion, the disciples and even the demons. But the primary testimony comes from God the Father. He had already said this is my Son in whom I am well pleased at his baptism, and had claimed Him again at the Mount of Transfiguration and again during the Passion Week (John 12:28-33). But the resurrection declares that God the Father says Jesus is God the Son and that His sacrifice is acceptable as payment for the sins of all who believe (Romans 1:1-4 / Acts 13:30 / Romans 4:25 / Romans 6:4).

7. Is Jesus the only way to God? John 14:6 / Acts 4:10-12 – Jesus’ resurrection clearly shows that He is the only way to God. If there were multiple ways, Jesus would not have gone to the cross. He allowed himself to be subjected to death because it was necessary for our redemption.

8. Can I be forgiven for my sins? Colossians 2:13-15 – Jesus’ resurrection validates His claim to have victory over sin and death. The ultimate result of sin is death, and Jesus conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Romans 10:9-10 – belief in Jesus’ resurrection is central to a saving faith.

9. What about all of the evil in this world? Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates a loving God redeeming a world degraded by evil. If there were no evil, Jesus would not have had to conquer death through the cross. If God was not loving, He would not have sent Jesus into the world to redeem us (John 3:16). Looking at His death and resurrection, we know without a doubt that there is evil in this world, yet we are still loved by a God with power over death. Once someone accepts the resurrection, many other barriers to accepting Christ are torn down. Whatever the question, the answer is the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord (John 2:22).

10. The resurrection is the cause for sending the Holy Spirit (John 16:7) – The indwelling empowering convicting blessing life of the believer and of the church! The full ministry of the Holy Spirit was dependent upon the resurrection of Christ. No resurrection, no ascension, no ascension, no Holy Spirit, no Holy Spirit, no church. When you talk about the resurrection proving the completion of the saving work of God, you're talking about the heart of Christianity. He had to rise to give us eternal life, to rise to go back to the Father to send us the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains the that if there were no resurrection: 1) preaching Christ would be senseless (v. 14); 2) faith in Christ would be useless (v. 14); 3) all the witnesses and preachers would be liars (v. 15); 4) no one would be redeemed from sin (v. 17); 5) all former believers would have perished (v.18); and 6) Christians would be the most pitiable people on the earth (v. 19). But Christ has risen from the dead and “has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen sleep” (v. 20,23), assuring that we will follow Him in resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves the steadfastness of the Word of God, the sovereignty of the Son of God, the success of the salvation of God, the start of the church of God, the surety of the judgment of God (Acts 17:31), and the eternal satisfaction of the people of God. His resurrection is the guarantee of our eternal heaven (John 14:1-3). Everything in the Christian life depends on the resurrection. Thank God it is a reality.

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