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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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Amazing Adornment

…even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit…
(1 Peter 3:4)

Peter is talking about Christian relationships and subjection to authority. Here he exhorts women to be models of moderation, submission, and godly conduct. Instead of loud dress and incessant pressure to conform loved ones to what they believe, Peter says that perhaps toning down and trusting God will work where mere words will not. Consider that he was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he says that this can begin to win loved ones to Christ without having to preach to them. Instead of speaking out loud, Peter says to live out loud concerning our faith, and that with the fruit of the Spirit, not the frivolity of the self.

This is good advice for all Christians. We should use every opportunity we have to glorify God, and to show Christ in our world. Wearing a meek and quiet spirit can speak volumes in today’s din of degeneration. If someone can see that we have changed, are in submission to God and that we are trusting in Him, then it is easier for the unbelieving to understand why they need to come under God’s authority. When we practice what we preach, our preaching carries more weight, and actions speak louder than words.

What is speaking louder to your world, your clothes or your convictions? Believe me, you wear your convictions quite often, can people see them? We are talking about more than wearing a shirt or button or having a sticker with a Christian slogan on your car. There is a saying, “the clothes make the man”. When you do as Peter says then you are putting on timely apparel with timeless appeal. What are you putting on when you go out your door today?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Indecent Exposure

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:13 – ESV)

What are you exposing yourself to? What are you allowing into your eyes, your ears, your mind, and your heart? I am not talking about unavoidable things. We all get exposed to images and ideas and iniquity that we would rather never encounter, but it is going to happen at times. I am also not talking about isolating yourself from all of culture in order to avoid these unpleasant events. No, what I am talking about are those things you allow as a regular course.

Do you spend a lot of time wondering if we are allowed to do this or that certain thing? Conversely, do you care at all? I think the answer to many of these type of questions could be solved by first asking ourselves some other important questions. What do you allow to fill your time? What is the background music in the soundtrack of your life? How much time are you allowing the things of God to be impressed upon you? The Word of God is powerful, but if your frequency is overrun with other, worldly things, then all you will hear is a clouded mix.

Many people talk of wanting to change but they say it is too hard to do. They look for some magic formula, or expect God to just bail them out of working at it. They also overlook this whole idea of slowly changing, and slowly sliding back. So some think it is too hard to change. If this is you, I want to tell you the truth. The reason it seems so hard is because your heart is so hard. Your heart has become so hardened because of what you have let in.

Ever have someone say to you that they don’t have time for this or that? Well we all know what this means. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with having no time but it is actually about not wanting to use our time in that way. What they mean, and if you want to be direct what you would say is that you won’t make time for this or that. What are you “making time” for?

The things you expose yourself to do indeed have an effect on you. Now this is true for many areas, but lets take images, for one example. If you say that they don’t have an effect on you, well, then why do you expose yourself to them? As you can see, it is not about the fact that they have an effect, that cannot be denied, it is whether or not they have a lasting effect, that is the real question, isn’t it?

Well, not completely. It is also about cumulative effect, and setting patterns of behavior for yourself as well. Since we know for sure that doing something over time is creating habits, it IS a habit, and multiplied images bring multiple chances for long term retention, then the only excuse you might have is to say that you will not be affected long term, that you can withdraw yourself from this behavior if it gets too much. But saying that in light of the other, undeniable evidence is playing games with your mind, your heart, and with God.

Even if we were to hypothetically admit that exposure creates no long-term effect, however preposterous that may be, we still have a major problem because it would still be, as long as you keep doing it, an ongoing effect. One exposure, one image may not stay with you, but it leads to a chain of events, multiple exposures, and this leads to an ongoing problem. How can you say exposure has no long-term effect when you keep exposing yourself to it?

A.W. Tozer said, “Every one of us is the sum of what we secretly admire, what we think about and what we would like to do most if we become free to do what we wanted to do.” Think about that. If money, jail time, conscience, family, friends, and God were not constraints, would you spend your time following Christ, learning of Him? Be honest, because the way you truthfully answer this question will reveal to you a lot about where you are in your walk with God. What do you want to be exposed to when you have the opportunity? What is lighting your fire, and where is the light going out?

Many want to be allowed to expose themselves to all sorts of things, anything except the Word of God, and they harden their hearts so as to not feel the sting of the Sword of the Spirit. Their consciences are seared and their minds are cleared from the transforming power of the Word and they are instead filled with all sorts of distraction, deception, and destruction. Nevertheless, they are exposed, we all are exposed before the Mighty, Living Word of God, Jesus Christ Himself, and His Word is His Sword in His hand. Christ will either be our physician or our executioner. If His Word is not the instrument of our life, it will be the instrument of our death, if not the instrument of our justification, then the instrument of our judgment.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Playing House

…together with the church in their house…
(1 Corinthians 16:19 – ESV)

Let’s get this out of the way right upfront: Not all house churches are bad. House churches can be found throughout the New Testament. House churches, done right, are biblical and fruitful. However, that being said, many, many, many are all bad.

Now we are absolutely not talking about a church plant that meets in a house, or all house churches in general, necessarily. If you by necessity must have house church, then well. But the idea of house church being the ideal is many times a front for the concept of “no one does it like us, or like they should”, a mentality of rebels, and a gathering of the ungrateful. Necessity isn’t because of rebellion, because of weirdness or because of a lack of accountability, or because of a church split. Necessity means there are no other good churches around. I didn’t say churches you liked, but biblical ones. Not how you define it, but how the Bible does. Do you know how the Bible defines a good church? If not, or if that seems too difficult for you, what makes you think you should be doing church at home?

What we are talking about are those that would start a house church because they just don’t like church, and they want to make it like they like it. They want to play at church without the real life responsibilities that go along with a real church. You know a little girl with a dollhouse is not a real responsibility. So too, many house churches are just plastic models made by people who cannot stand not being able to walk away when they are done playing with it.

You wouldn’t give your little girl a real baby to take care of would you? God does not want to give a bunch of little babies their own child. They can get a toy that cries and sucks a bottle and wets itself but it still won’t be the real thing, it won’t have a heart. Oh yes they could make a baby with a beating heart, but there would be no real blood flowing in its veins, and no brains in that head, and even if there were, it takes God Himself to breath Life into a soul, and into the soul of a church. When you are just playing house church you have a baby doll with an empty Head, no Lifeblood, and no soul.

Phil Johnson has this to say. (It is) “For those who want to play "church" but despise authority. The house church movement embraces an unbiblical egalitarianism that subverts the role Scripture assigns to elders and overseers of the flock of God (cf. Hebrews 13:7, 17). Quoting a Web site: "One of the main distinctions of house church vs. institutional church is the use of dialogue rather than lecture and sermon." Now there's an unbiblical recipe for shepherding the flock. But biblical shepherding is inherently out of sync with house-church populism. Predictably, this site is hostile to formal training and full-time pastors. The result is a theological home-brew that is both inconsistent and confusing.”

Most want to belong to a group while being apart from the “system” because of their belief that everything about it is corrupt or elitist. Ironically they often become as elitist as the group they left supposedly was. You can’t escape the human condition by retreating to a house church. Some have found that out and turned their house church into a closet church with only enough room for themselves. Head back to church and stop playing house.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Enter In or Fall Back

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 – ESV)

This is true of any word from the Word, when it comes you enter in or fall back. There is an accountability that comes to all who hear the Word of God and it is this powerful Word that the author now reminds his readers to heed. These readers had heard enough of God’s Word to know what He required of them, yet they remained on the edge of unbelief. If they failed to appropriate the spiritual rest found only in Christ they would be in danger of becoming immune to the truth and, therefore, hardened.

This was as real a danger then as it is today. Anytime a person is confronted by the truth of God’s Word, standing on the edge of belief, and fails to step over in faith, there is a risk of falling away from that place of sensitivity to the Spirit of God. The warning is very real. The solution to this problem is submitting to the authority and transforming power of Scripture. The Spirit of God brings you to a moment of decision and you either walk in the Spirit or turn back and walk in the flesh.

The beginnings of verse 12 “for”, and verse 13 “and” are connected. In verse 12 we are looking for an explanation as to why we should hurry, to be diligent, to “rush in” as we see in verse 11. The answer is that the written Word of God (Logos) is exposing you and the fact of your need. Verse 13 says we have to give an account to the Living Word (Logos). The reason we have to hurry up and enter in is because the written Word exposes us before the Living Word. The Bible is like a blade in Christ’s hands.

You don’t really separate the two; they go together, the written and living Word, because the written Word is alive. Those words in the Bible come from the life giving Spirit of Christ. The words are separated in time and space from the person of Jesus walking the earth, but they are connected, because as they come to us they resonate with His life and the power of who He is, they are living words. You either enter in to life, or walk around as dead.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Sermon: Since We Do, We Can

Hebrews 4:14-16

When we know someone who has traveled somewhere we want or need to go, we often ask them for directions. They might tell us of the potential traffic jams or places to avoid, but they have been there, and so they can tell us the best route to get there, and their example gives us confidence for our journey. They have been there, and it makes a difference.

Joshua had confidence even though he saw giants in the Promised Land. He had remembered the deliverance from Egypt and the promises that God had made. He went and looked at the Promised Land, came back and gave a good report. As we talked of last week, too often we don’t enter in to all God has for us because we fear what lies ahead, instead of having faith in the One who has gone before us, and who promises us that we can take the land.

Hebrews 3:1 – sets the agenda for chapters 3-7 – Jesus is our Apostle and High Priest

Chapters 3-4 – Our Apostle, our ultimate Joshua, leading us to the ultimate Promised Land

Chapters 5-7 – Christ as our High Priest, leading us to the presence of God

We saw that in 4:12-13 it is the Word that reveals our inner person, laying us bare, leading us to repentance. In 4:14-16 it is the person of Christ who is the one that provides what we need, the One who we place our faith in. Repentance and faith (Acts 20) are the heart and soul of the Christian life. This passage leads us to the next section, chapters 5-7, going from explaining Christ as Apostle to Christ as High Priest, but it also concludes this section in chapters 3-4.

The Word of God has exposed our need, and now we must repent, and place our faith in Christ. It is as if He has the knife to our throat, and we either trust Him to operate, we repent of our refusing to let Him operate, and we have faith that He can do the job, or we fail to enter in. The written word exposes us to the living word, and we must have faith that Christ, the living word, can do what he says he can do. Just as last week this is not only about salvation but sanctification, about entering into heaven, but also about entering into holiness.

The author now takes up the main argument of the Epistle, already alluded to in 1:3, 2:17, 3:1. Christ is superior in every way to the Old Covenant. He has already shown Jesus is superior to the prophets (1:1-3), to angels (1:4-2:18), to Moses (3:1-4:13), and now demonstrates that the priestly work of Jesus as superior to that of the Levitical line (4:14-12:3).

The OT had three mediating offices, Prophet Priest and King, three types of persons who stood between man and God.

The Priest was the way to God; they brought sacrifices to him

The Prophet was the truth from God; he expressed God’s revelation to people

The King represents life, he could take or give, pardon or punishment

John 14:6 – 1 Timothy 2:5 – Jesus fulfills all three offices for the NT economy. Look at the last phrase; He is the only way to God. He has made the sacrifice, He speaks to us as God’s Word, and He reigns as King upon the throne of our lives. Jesus Christ is the only way to enter into God’s rest, and the only way to enter into all the rest. He is in the right position.

Vs.14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Since then means therefore, a conclusion – applying what he is now going to say to what he has already said. Who He is (Son of God, High Priest) and where He is (the heavens). He is the right person, in the right place, for our right now time. That is why we can seize the opportunity for help. We can enter in because He has entered in. He is in the right position, as far as purpose, as far as place, and as far as power.

Purpose – We have a great high priest – Mega – the OT High priest was in symbol the way, but Christ is the real deal. The High Priest of the Tabernacle couldn’t rest in the Most Holy Place, he could go in only once per year, and couldn’t wait around, he had to get the incense in and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat and then leave. He couldn’t stay in the presence of God. Christ is different – Chapter 1:3,13 – Jesus sat down, and He has taken all of us with Him.

Place – Who has passed through the heavens – perfect tense, an event with continuous results, Jesus has taken His place in the throne room. He has passed through the heavens to sit at the right hand of the Father, where He performs as our High Priest. He’s in the right place.

Power – Jesus the Son of God, who has gone into the Most Holy place in heaven and sat down at God’s right hand, He is our High Priest, He is able to do what we need, He is in the right place to do it, and He has unlimited resources. He is the Son of God, the right man for the job.

Now through the word you know what you need but you also need to know who can help you. As it is said, it is not what you know but who you know. You could know you need your roof fixed, but do you know a roofer, etc. You could have a perfect diagnosis as to your illness, but and even know exactly what medicine to take and even have it on your shelf, but if you don’t take it you won’t get cured. You could know all the theology in the Bible but if you don’t place your faith in Jesus it will do you no good. Not just what you know, but who you know.

Yes, we should come to know the things of God revealed in the Bible, we should study it, intensely and continuously. However, some are so fixed on looking at the trees they miss the fact that they are in the forest. The Jews of the day were so fixed on letters and words they missed the bigger picture of Divine intent and meaning (John 5:39-40). In all our studies in the Word of God we must remember that the God of the Word is whom we seek.

Let us hold fast our confession – this is the exhortation – Christ is the object of our confession. Confession is homologia – to speak the same – keep that Word within us, homogenize, to make us like it. We agree with God, with His word, we have been exposed and we agree, we need a savior, a sanctifier, to be rid of something so as to obtain rest from it, I speak the same thing as God has told me to. The Word abides in me.

Hold fast – krateo – to seize it with strength, present tense (keep on doing it, now), active voice (you take the action, not passive, not to yourself), subjunctive mood (conditional)

Hold fast in 4:14 is different word than 3:6,14 (possessing), there it is holding onto, in 4:14 it is reaching out and getting it, once you have it you hold onto it, but you have to take it first, one means “hold on tight”, the other “get a hold of it quick”, the latter being the meaning here.

Let us seize the opportunities we have to take hold of Christ (Philippians 3:12 different word but it reminds us that Paul said His conversion was the beginning, not the end of the chase). Let us hold fast, grasp it, seize it make it ours and become one with it. Having the written word active in your life, as you are allowing Him to operate on you through it, you are entering in and you can take that word and let it make you more like Christ, you seize the moment.

This is actually basic stuff, but I don’t just want to tell you to do it, I want you to understand it. This is why we explain the text, so that you will have faith. It is like a doctor explaining what is going to happen before he does the surgery, so you will have an idea of what is being done, and have confidence that it is the right thing to do, and that you will know that he knows what he is doing. We have an inside man, we have a connection, and this man is in the right position to help us, that is His purpose, He’s in the right place, and He has the power.

Vs.15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

For is a connecting word, he is giving an explanation – what He can do for us. Not only is Christ in a position to help you, He is willing and able to help you. We might know someone that could help us, but it doesn’t do any good if he won’t, or if we cannot get a hold of him. It is a tremendous blessing to us that we can get a hold of Christ, and He is willing to help us. The writer is telling us not only why we should but also why we can enter in and hold fast.

Jesus is sympathetic with our cause. We have many weaknesses, and we seem to be able to notice them more as we mature. We might be getting stronger but we see our true helplessness before many things. We aren’t the naïve young one any more, then invincible 18 year-old who hasn’t yet learned. We have had episodes that remind us of our overall condition.

We all need help, all the time, we are not God, we have weaknesses, and we have limitations. But we also have sin, and we know we don’t deserve help, especially the help of the one we so often sin against. So we feel like it is hopeless, we have needs, but we don’t deserve all the help we need. So we can try to deny it all and act like we don’t need any help, or try to drown it all and throw our life into a pool of pleasures, or we give way to the darkness of despair. But God has made provision to give us a living hope, our Great High Priest Jesus Christ.

The word for weaknesses is often used in the Gospels for physical illness. Here it means we have no strength, not physical strength but that we have no spiritual strength. Now we may indeed be increasing in spiritual strength as we mature, but we still have weaknesses, and we rely on Jesus more as we see them and repent of trying to do it through our own lack. This is the Christian way; we are actually growing stronger in Him as we realize the weakness in ourselves. Then we receive the strength of Christ. We confess our weakness and repent of trying to do it our way, and then we walk that out as we place faith in Christ as our strength. In order for Christ to give us His strength we have to come to the place where we realize our weakness. We have to admit we are unable to resist, and we repent, and have faith that Jesus can and will operate. He shows us our weakness, and He gives us strength. What will it take for you to realize you can’t handle it? Apart from the grace of God you are without strength.

Now once you do realize your lack of strength you cannot do as those at Kadesh-barnea and simply stay away, go back, fail to enter in. Many have been exposed by the Word, but they then fail to take of hold of Christ and enter in because they think they have to do it in their own strength and they realize they don’t have enough. This is our dilemma with regard to sin in our lives. We have been exposed but we won’t enter into the operating room, we fail to trust God during hard times.

Jesus sympathizes with this, our weakness. This “sympathize” is in the aorist tense, a singular event. Not the present tense where He is always sympathizing, that would make it a general principal, “He knows how you feel”. It is not like He is only saying, “I’ve been there before, and man, and I know how you feel.” No this in the aorist tense, He sympathizes with THAT, in other words not just with the fact that we are weak, but with the actual weaknesses themselves, the actual events. Jesus is not unable; He is able to sympathize with every event we go through. It is like He is saying, “I know how you feel right now, because I feel it right now.” Not just I’ve been where you’ve been, but also I am there with you now.

But one who in every respect has been tempted as we are – 1 John 2:16 – all temptation comes into three categories, pleasures, possessions, and pride. He was tempted with all in the wilderness (Matthew 4 / Luke 4) –

Stones to bread – lust of the flesh (pleasures)

Kingdoms of world – lust of the eyes (possessions)

Top of Temple – pride of life (position).

We know that Jesus was tempted numerous other times, but here we see that He was indeed tempted in every respect. If you have had cancer you can sympathize with someone else who has it, even if it is in a different body part, it is still the same disease. Jesus was tempted under stress and pressure to abandon the will of God, to use His divine prerogatives and find His own fulfillment through His own way, instead of relying on God for strength, that is what He was tempted with, and that is what we are tempted with, and He can sympathize with us. That is what Jesus was tempted with in the wilderness, that is what the Jews were tempted with in the wilderness, that is what we are tempted with, and the question is will we make it out of the wilderness by entering in? Will we cave in to the pressure, or enter in to the throne room?

Yet without sin – Jesus did not yield under pressure. Now this is saying more than that. He is the Son of God, and is impeccable; He was not able to sin. If He was peccable it would mean He was able to sin, but didn’t. He can’t sin, and He did not know sin but He did know temptation.

C.S. Lewis imagined someone objecting here: "If Jesus never sinned, then he doesn't know what temptation is like. He lived a sheltered life and is out of touch with how strong temptation can be." Here is what Lewis wrote in response to that objection: A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is . . . A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in . . . Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.

Jesus did not have internal temptations to sin as we do, but Jesus had the limits of hunger, thirst, and weariness, and through these the enemy strikes. He sympathizes with the assault of temptation in times of crisis. Jesus knows temptation in a way we don’t, because only the one who never gives into temptation knows the full strength of temptation. The pressure mounted until it reached its peak in the garden of Gethsemane. If it be possible was His cry, yet He also said, not My will but Thine be done. Unlike Christ, we feel the least bit of pressure and we go running back into the wilderness of our own worldliness. It is true that Jesus never faced temptation in an inner sense the way we do, because there was never a sinful nature pulling Him to sin from the inside. But He knew the strength and fury of external temptation in a way, and to a degree, that we can never know. He knows what we go through; He has faced worse.

Vs.16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We talked at length about this verse a few weeks ago, but lets put this all together now. He is saying therefore again, drawing a conclusion. Let us therefore with assurance keep coming, we are free to speak, we can confidently approach the throne of God in His grace.

We can enter in because He has entered in. Since we do have such a Great High Priest, we can enter into the presence of God and find provision. We can come to Him for strength so that we will not yield under the pressure, and for mercy if and when we do.

That we may receive mercy and find grace – both verbs in the aorist tense, for specific situations, both subjunctive mood, which means it is a contingency; you have to come and get it.

To help = undergird like Acts 27:17 – help in righting the ship.

With Jesus on the throne we can have confidence that we can get the help we need. We can find mercy and grace, mercy to not get what I do deserve, and grace to get what I don’t deserve. Mercy to forgive me for that thing I did, and grace to help me to not do it again. We don't escape the pain, the stress, the disappointments, the suffering, the tragedy, the frustrations and pressures of life in this world. But we do have a place where we can go to find mercy and grace to help us. At that place we have Someone who sympathizes with us, is willing and able to help us, who has no limits to His resources, and we can go to Him anytime, and He will help us right on time.

In time of need – now we are always needy, but this means timely, right on time, in the nick of time, well timed for your situation. He can help us, He is willing to help us, and if we enter in He will help us, and He will do it right on time. We can grab a hold of it and have confidence in it.

This is the big picture of Hebrews 4:11-16: the Bible and prayer. It is about the written Word and the Living Word, about repentance and faith. The Word of God speaks to you, and you speak to the Word of God. You see your need through the Word, you take hold of that Word and bring it to God who is ready, willing and able to help you get the most out of it. The battle is won in prayer. That is how you enter in.

Let’s put it all together from this week and last week. God’s Word reveals to you something He wants to operate on. You pray to Him in faith, repenting and telling Him you will trust Him to operate, to be the Great High Priest, the Great Physician in your life, to stop trying to do it in your own power. Later, when you are up against temptation, right then at that moment, rush in, don’t wait, and don’t cave in to pressure, but enter in to prayer.

When we are faced with difficulty, we either enter in or stay away, we either panic or we pray. The Jews at Kadesh-barnea were facing giants, and they panicked and never entered in. The Jewish converts in this passage were under heavy persecution, they were being publicly scorned, losing property, and being put in prison, and they needed to be warned not to fall back. God was showing them where they were faltering, and they needed to pray for help. Jesus suffered under more pressure than anyone in history, and He knows what you are going through, right when you are going through it. We should follow Him to the Promised Land.

Instead of yielding to temptation, next time enter in and ask for mercy and grace to help you in your time of need. Since we do have Christ as our High Priest, we can enter in to His rest.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, February 22, 2008

You Need the Negativity

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
(2 Timothy 3:12 – ESV)

Recent polls tell us what we already know: many people that want to draw near to God also want to stay away from church. The reason often given is that there is so much negativity they have found there. Of course, they haven’t been to every church, but this cry is heard so often that it truly might seem as if there are no churches where there isn’t any negativity.

Actually the truth is that they are right, there aren’t any non-negative churches.

There aren’t supposed to be.

You see we all need some negativity, and yes, especially from people inside the church.

Jesus told us that in the world we would have tribulation, but that He has overcome the world (John 16:33). He presented the truth that He would be with the disciples by the Holy Spirit, to allow the negative circumstance to be an opportunity for increased faith. Even though they were to be scattered and killed, they would have faith (1 John 5:4). We can certainly apply these verses to us today.

Yet many take these truths and then, instead of being a call for faith, as Jesus intended, they see it as an instrument of fear. They either isolate from the world in the church, or practice the relatively new phenomena of isolating from the church in the world. Neither is effective at insulating us from trouble, rather, they actually decrease our ability to adapt and overcome in faith when the promised trouble comes. We cannot simply practice isolation in order to avoid it. We deny Christ and the Great Commission in doing so.

You have probably heard it said, or thought or even said it yourself: “I have never had a negative experience studying the Bible or in prayer, but have had many negative experiences in church or from people that I thought (at the time) were Christians.” My answer to that is: if you have never had a negative experience with God, what Bible have you been reading? Did it not convict you? Was there no tension? Did you read the pages and still miss all the adversity found there, even among those who were on the same side?

The idea of “Vox Populi Vox Deus”, or “The voice of the people is the voice of God”, is the problem with conducting polls. Just because some majority of professing (real or not) Christians feels a certain way about a subject does not mean it is the same thing God thinks. The answer to this is: What do the scriptures teach!

Yes, non- “church building” worship is fully biblical, and we do not need a survey to tell us that it is aligned with the Bible. People all over the world want Christ in their heart but there are circumstances where they cannot get together inside a building and worship together. However, that doesn’t excuse those who can congregate but won’t. Some are isolated from being in church because of persecution against the church. God will insulate them in their hearts. Others are just isolating themselves from church because they insulate their own hearts from God by playing isolation games from God’s people.

If you cannot handle adversity with those of like precious faith, and those closest to you, how do you expect to handle it out in the world? Or do you just not have to because you avoid it? Is that what you do with members of your own flesh and blood family, just avoid them or play nice, and avoid the negativity? God’s people should not be that way. Adversity should not breed avoidance it should breed faith. It is not that we should love adversity but that we should learn from it...

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

What the Word Does

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 – ESV)

In this verse there are two action verbs, in the present tense, which means they are this continuously, as regarding the Word of God. The first verb talks of what the Word is and the second speaks of what the Word does.

The second verb is piercing – to penetrate – two applications are given to describe it.

The first is division – to separate – soul and spirit (spiritual matters), joints and marrow (physical matters). In other words, as written at the time these things would be impossibly hard to divide but that is how penetrating God’s Word is, it can and will find out the problem right at the root, no matter how deep it is buried, no matter how many layers it has to separate. Like soul and spirit, the immaterial parts of man, things we cannot get a hold of, God’s Word can. Back when this was written, joints and marrow meant an impossible physical division; bone marrow transplants weren’t available back then. But God’s Word penetrated as deep as that. The point is that the Word of God lays bare our problem; it exposes it for what it is. It gets to the bottom of it.

The second is discerning – judging – not condemning but ascertaining what is really going on. It is able to see what needs to be done. It gives a critique. The Word gets to the bottom of things and passes judgment on what it finds. A prosecutor presents the facts of the case, but the judge determines what is right and wrong; the Word of God does both.

Thoughts and intents, both the feelings of desire and the imaginations of the mind. Scripture searches out the truth, it gets inside of you, exposes the sin you are covering up and your need of Christ, and gives you a chance to repent. As we faithfully use the Scriptures we will be trained to discern the wrong ways of thinking that have become fortresses for sin in our lives so that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed. This is the surgical power of God’s Word. This is what the Word of God does. We cannot take it for granted. We need to get worked on while we are on the operating table. We don’t schedule the appointments, it puts us on the table and says hurry up and let me go to work, or get off the table and stay sick and die. The Word of God identifies the sickness and because it is alive it can give new life. It can change the heart.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What the Word Is

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 – ESV)

In this verse there are two action verbs, in the present tense, which means they are this continuously, as regarding the Word of God. The first verb talks of what the Word is and the second speaks of what the Word does.

The first verb is living – the Word discerns all things because of what it is, it is living. It has the life and power of God in it. When a man speaks the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, it has the same power as it had when the Holy Spirit brooded over the darkness and said, “Let there be light.” The Word of God brings the convicting power of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

Two other words give us a description of this living.

Activeenerges (Grk.), full of energy, powerful. It is effective (Isaiah 55:9-11). Its effectiveness may not be immediately evident to us, but as we mature we will understand it is always so, we will see it being effective in changing lives and also in hardening hearts. It will be a surgeon or an executioner, as we see while progressing through Hebrews 4:11-16. It will perform surgery and bring new life, or it will be the death sentence to the rebel. The Word of God either heals or it hardens, and it never fails to do its intended work.

Sharpertomoteros (Grk.) makes it comparative, not just sharp but sharper. In other words, it is not like a Roman short sword, it is more precise than that. It is not only effective it is precise. It not only gets the job done, it gets it done exactly right. It goes as deep as it needs to, it hits the root.

This is what the word of God is; it is living, and therefore effective and precise, and that is why it is able to discern all things.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fools Don’t Rush In

GOOD NEWS

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:11 – ESV)

The background of this writing was that there was heavy persecution for the new Jewish Christians. However the Jews themselves were not being persecuted, and so these new converts were considering going back to Judaism so as to avoid the persecution, and avoid possible death. The writer of Hebrews is telling them that they may be looking at physical death, yes, but that if they draw back they are most assuredly inviting spiritual death. They either had to have faith in Christ, and move forward, or fall back and deny Christ, and thereby not obtain the salvation Christ was promising them if they entered in. They were at the moment of decision.

Therefore – the writer is applying what he is now going to say to what he has already said. He had said “therefore” in verse 9, meaning that there was still a rest to be entered into. So he says that they must be diligent to enter it, unlike those who failed before. They had to make their choice and rush in now, or be left behind. He compares them with the situation at Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 13-14), where the Jews rebelled against God, Moses and Aaron, by not wanting to enter the Promised Land because of the giants they saw.

The writer of Hebrews challenged them and us to "be diligent" so that we do not settle into a life of disobedience. But this means we rush in, we make haste when we have a choice, we either enter in or fall back in those moments. The examples the writer had shared from the Old Testament were applicable to those reading then and to the life of the reader today.

This would be a graphic and startling illustration to be compared with them. It would bring forth the seriousness of what was going on and the decision that needed to be made because they knew what happened to those people. They died in the wilderness, all of them except those under twenty and Joshua and Caleb. They knew of God’s displeasure in their disobedience, their lack of faith in God and His promises. The writer of Hebrews wants them to know they are about to make the same mistake. So can we, it applies to us today as well.

In this verse are two verbs, both in the aorist tense, meaning it is a singular event in time; they are on the brink of decision. They give us one positive exhortation and one negative. In essence they are “hurry up and enter in”, and “don’t fall back”.

Now in verse 10 we see rest, and the end of works, and we are supposed to be entering rest, but many versions say, “strive”, or “be diligent”, or “make every effort”, etc., and this can be confusing. If God entered in and stopped from working and rested, why are we supposed to work to enter in? Well, it isn’t working to enter the rest, the truth is that what this means is not labor or working or having to do things, it is about speed, to hasten, make haste, hurry up. The obedience required isn’t works it is belief. Do it now, don’t wait. Don’t delay you may miss it.

Failure to act now may lose you the opportunity. People think they can keep one foot on the bus and one foot on the ground, but you cannot halfway enter into the ark. You either get in or you are left behind. We all know how it is when someone is waiting on you, and the door is open, and you are halfway in the car. They will say something like, “In or out?” or “Are you coming or not?” If you don’t act they may drive away.

Hurry up, enter in, or fall away. This is the disobedience of unbelief (Hebrews 3:18-19, 4:2,6). This is the example the writer is warning them of. If they don’t act they will begin to fall away. It is the same with us when we are convicted by the Word. Repent or rebel, be helped or be hardened. You either get in or you are left behind like a boat pulling away from the shore.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, February 18, 2008

The Missing Ingredient

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Colossians 1:14 – ESV)

Are you saved? If so, what are you saved from, a lack of self-esteem, a bad marriage, a bad childhood, a lack of money? No, looking at Romans from 1:18-3:23 we see that salvation is from the wrath of God, which has been being revealed against all who suppress the truth with their unrighteousness. Jesus Christ is the answer to sin, and His death propitiates (appeases) the wrath of God.

None of those other needs requires God to become incarnate, live a sinless life, die on a cross and rise again. Is it necessary for Christ to have been crucified; that is a good criterion, do you need a bloody savior to preach this? The problem is that people aren’t looking for salvation as being reconciled to God. The old (real) gospel starts with an offended God. The new (false) gospel starts with a wounded “us”. The truth is not that we are wounded but that we are dead!

The gospel is not a commodity, and unlike what we hear preached as the gospel these days, Jesus isn’t very passionate about some of your greatest felt needs. There is nothing distinctly Christian about the new gospel messages at all, that is why they are so popular. They appeal to the masses that are looking for some way out of their misery, when they don’t know what it really is. The false preachers just add Christ into the mix but their messages are just like they would be without Him, motivational talks, moral exhortations, feel good seminars. If you took out the biblical references or even added them it wouldn’t make any difference to the content of the teaching.

What kind of savior do we really need? The bible defines that need. We are saved from God by God. The law had to be fulfilled by humanity. Only God could save us; only a human being should save us. Until that broken law was fulfilled by humanity we were still dead in our sins. We needed a new federal head, a second Adam. To redeem a people He had to be fully God, so as to give the atonement an infinite value, and He had to be fully man to perfectly satisfy the requirements of God’s law, thus becoming an acceptable substitute for sinners. It is not how many bad things you have done, not how many sins you have committed, but actually how bad sin itself really is. The new gospel appeals to those who say, “just let me do what I want but help me deal with the pain”, or “I just want to feel better about myself”. That isn’t the gospel.

It is in Christ that we have what we need. The true gospel is a gospel of the cross. The new gospel is a gospel of wisdom. The true gospel cares about salvation from sin. The new gospel cares about salvation from ignorance. The true gospel looks to stimulate faith. The new gospel looks to stimulate knowledge and insight.

The new gospel tells us to forgive ourselves. You don’t forgive yourself it is God who forgives you, and if you are looking for that, the power to forgive yourself, well then you are looking to be God and you realize you don’t have the power and you feel bad and no wonder. Do they need a healthy self-image? No what they need is to be conformed to Christ’s image!

The missing ingredient in many gospels or gospel presentations is the fact that we are bound by sin, dead in sin, and slaves to sin. Salvation is from sin and to the Savior. The great problem of humanity is sin, not a lack of knowledge, not a lack of power, but a lack of purity. No amount of power and no amount of knowledge can erase that. Only the blood of Christ can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus can make me whole again. The only way we can have peace with God is if our sins are forgiven, and in Christ they are (Romans 5:1).


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Sermon: Do or Die

Hebrews 4:11-13

Opening prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray that today, through your Word, that you would give us revelation and repentance. That you will reveal to our hearts what it is that is keeping us from entering in to all you would have for us, and that you would grant us repentance unto life. For some it would mean salvation, and for others it would mean increased sanctification and fruitfulness. Father, let your Word go out, because we know that it will not come back void, it will do what you send it to do. Oh God, let it so be that it would create new hearts today, and mend broken hearts today, and deliver stolen hearts today, and not simply harden rebellious hearts today. Let people be saved today, and let everyone enter in, in Jesus name we pray, amen.

Did you ever have an important decision to make, one that you feared to make but one you knew that you had to make? It was do or die, in a sense. Avoiding the issue was no option, and you faced real opposition if you moved forward, but you really felt like staying back, and doing nothing, like hoping it would all just go away, just work itself out. Did you procrastinate so long that you lost the opportunity, and then regretted it later? In retrospect, did not making the decision while you had the chance cost you more than the pain of having to go through it at the time? Do you wish you could do it all over again? Sometimes we might get a second chance, but sometimes we never do, like when we get older and we cannot go back and fix things we wish we never did, or do things we should have done. Sometimes we just need to have faith in what God is doing in us, we need to count on Him for courage, because to retreat is to invite regret.

The Jews of biblical times had these do or die decisions to make. The background of this writing was that there was heavy persecution for the new Jewish Christians. However the Jews themselves were not being persecuted, and so these new converts were considering going back to Judaism so as to avoid the persecution, and avoid possible death. The writer of Hebrews is telling them that they may be looking at physical death, yes, but that if they draw back they are most assuredly inviting spiritual death. They either had to have faith in Christ, and move forward, or fall back and deny Christ, and thereby not obtain the salvation Christ was promising them if they entered in. They were at the moment of decision. It was do or die.

We will see how this passage exhorts us to obey the Word of God as it comes to us, immediately, or be in danger of letting it slip, and not entering in to all God has for us. When the Word of God reveals sin, we can either let Christ work on our hearts through the Word, or our hearts become hardened by that same Word. The living Word of God speaks to the human heart.

Vs.11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Therefore – applying what he is now going to say to what he has already said. He had said therefore in verse 9, meaning that there was still a rest to be entered into. So he says that they must be diligent to enter it, unlike those who failed before.

He compares them with the situation at Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 13-14), where the Jews rebelled against God, Moses and Aaron, by not wanting to enter the Promised Land because of the giants they saw. The Exodus generation died in the wilderness.

The writer of Hebrews challenged them and us to "be diligent" so that we do not settle into a life of disobedience (4:11). But this means we rush in, we make haste when we have a choice, we either enter in or fall back in those moments. The examples the writer had shared from the Old Testament were applicable to those reading then and to the life of the reader today.

This would be a graphic and startling illustration to be compared with them. It would bring forth the seriousness of what was going on and the decision that needed to be made because they knew what happened to those people. They died in the wilderness, all of them except those under twenty and Joshua and Caleb. They knew of God’s displeasure in their disobedience, their lack of faith in God and His promises. The writer of Hebrews wants them to know they are about to make the same mistake. So can we, it applies to us today as well. Jude 1:5 – they saw deliverance but were not fully committed.

In this verse are two verbs, both in the aorist tense, meaning it is an event, a one-time thing; they are on the brink of decision. They give us one positive exhortation and one negative. In essence they are “hurry up and enter in”, and “don’t fall back”.

Now in verse 10 we see rest, and the end of works, and we are supposed to be entering rest, but many versions say, “strive”, or “be diligent”, or “make every effort”, etc., and this can be confusing. If God entered in and stopped from working and rested, why are we supposed to work to enter in? Well, it isn’t working to enter the rest, the truth is that what this means is not labor or working or having to do things, it is about speed, to hasten, make haste, hurry up. The obedience required isn’t works it is belief. Do it now, don’t wait. Don’t delay you may miss it.

Negatively – failure to act now may lose you the opportunity. People think they can keep one foot on the bus and one foot on the ground, but you cannot halfway enter into the ark. You either get in or you are left behind. We all know how it is when someone is waiting on you, and the door is open, and you are halfway in the car. They will say something like, “In or out?” or “Are you coming or not?” If you don’t act they may drive away.

Hurry up, enter in, or fall away because of unbelief (vs.6 – lack of faith – vs.2). This is the disobedience of unbelief (Hebrews 3:18-19). This is the example the writer is warning them of. If they don’t act they will begin to fall away. It is the same as with us. You either get in or you are left behind like a boat pulling away from the shore.

Vs.12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Specifically the word about the rest, about them entering in to salvation, but it is true of any word from the Word, enter in or fall back. There is an accountability that comes to all who hear the Word of God as they did and it is this powerful Word that the author now reminds his readers to heed. These readers had heard enough of God’s Word to know what He required of them, yet they remained on the edge of unbelief. If they failed to appropriate the spiritual rest found only in Christ they would be in danger of becoming immune to the truth and, therefore, hardened.

This was as real a danger then as it is today. Anytime a person is confronted by the truth of God’s Word, standing on the edge of belief, and fails to step over in faith, there is a risk of falling away from that place of sensitivity to the Spirit of God. The warning is very real. Thus Hebrews 4:12 presents the solution to this problem: submitting to the authority and transforming power of Scripture. The Spirit of God brings you to a moment of decision and you either walk in the Spirit or turn back and walk in the flesh.

The beginnings of verse 12 “for”, and verse 13 “and” are connected. In verse 12 we are looking for an explanation as to why we should hurry. The answer is that the written Word of God (Logos) is exposing you and the fact of your need. Verse 13 says we have to give an account to the Living Word (Logos). The reason we have to hurry up and enter in is because the written Word exposes us before the Living Word. It is like a blade in His hands.

You don’t really separate the two; they go together, the written and living Word, because the written Word is alive. Those words in the Bible come from the life giving Spirit of Christ. The words are separated in time and space from the person of Jesus walking the earth, but they are connected, because as they come to us they resonate with His life and the power of who He is, they are living words.

In this verse there are two action verbs, in the present tense, which means they are this continuously, as regarding the Word of God. What it is and what it does.

The first verb is living – the word discerns all things because of what it is, it is living. It has the life and power of God in it. When a man speaks the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, it has the same power as it had when the Holy Spirit brooded over the darkness and said, “Let there be light.” The Word of God is the convicting power of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

Two other words give us a description of this living.

Activeenerges, full of energy, powerful. It is effective (Isaiah 55:9-11). Its effectiveness may not be immediately evident to us, but as we mature we will understand it is always so, we will see it being effective in changing lives and also in hardening hearts. It will be a surgeon or an executioner, as we will see in a moment. It will perform surgery and bring new life, or it will be the death sentence to the rebel. The Word of God either heals or it hardens, and it never fails to do its intended work.

Sharpertomoteros makes it comparative, not just sharp but sharper. In other words, it is not like a Roman short sword, it is more precise than that. It is not only effective it is precise. It not only gets the job done, it gets it done exactly right. It goes as deep as it needs to, it hits the root.

This is what the word of God is; it is living, and therefore effective and precise, and that is why it is able to discern all things.

The second verb is piercing – to penetrate – two applications are given to describe it.

The first is division – to separate – soul and spirit (spiritual matters), joints and marrow (physical matters). In other words, as written at the time these things would be impossibly hard to divide but that is how penetrating God’s Word is, it can and will find out the problem right at the root, no matter how deep it is buried, no matter how many layers it has to separate. Like soul and spirit, the immaterial parts of man, things we cannot get a hold of, God’s Word can. Back when this was written, joints and marrow meant an impossible physical division; bone marrow transplants weren’t available back then. But God’s Word penetrated as deep as that. The point is that the Word of God lays bare our problem; it exposes it for what it is. It gets to the bottom of it.

The second is discerning – judging – not condemning but ascertaining what is really going on. It is able to see what needs to be done. It gives a critique. The Word gets to the bottom of things and passes judgment on what it finds. A prosecutor presents the facts of the case, but the judge determines what is right and wrong; the Word of God does both.

Thoughts and intents, both the feelings of desire and the imaginations of the mind. Scripture searches out the truth, it gets inside of you, exposes the sin you are covering up and your need of Christ, and gives you a chance to repent. As we faithfully use the Scriptures we will be trained to discern the wrong ways of thinking that have become fortresses for sin in our lives so that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed. This is the surgical power of God’s Word. This is what the Word of God does. We cannot take it for granted. We need to get worked on while we are on the operating table. We don’t schedule the appointments, it puts us on the table and says hurry up and let me go to work, or get off the table and stay sick and die. The Word of God identifies the sickness and because it is alive it can give new life. It can change the heart.

Vs.13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Nothing is hidden, thoughts, emotions, desires, feelings, imaginations, actions, any secret thing is known by God fully, even the motivations that may not be clear to us are fully known and understood by God. The word for naked here means you are laid bare, that you are stripped. You are stripped of excuses, stripped of rationalization, stripped of supposed reasons, stripped of your own righteousness, stripped of anything that you think justifies you from being judged.

Those things you try to hide, and even those things that are hidden from you, none of this is hidden from God, it is right out in the open, and we are naked before Him. You can’t hide from God, you are an open book, and when you open the book, the Word of God, it shows you this fact. God knows better than you do how bad you need to be operated on, to enter in. Do you believe it, and will you enter in, or will you think you can do it whenever or wherever you want to, and rebel against God, against His word, against Christ, and fall back into sin?

Not only have we been stripped, we are also exposed, and this means something more. The word for exposed is trachelizo – like tracheotomy – to bend back the neck, as a victim exposed for sacrifice, the perfect tense implies that this is our continuous state in relation to God. Not only are we out in the open, uncovered, but also the executioner has our neck held back and the knife at our throat. That is you before a holy God. His word will judge you perfectly, precisely, completely, revealing every flaw, every thought, every word, and every deed.

Of him to whom we must give account – we are exposed and we will have to deal with the Living Word, the Logos. It is Jesus Christ who is holding the knife.

You either push forward in the war, or you fall back in retreat and run AWOL, you become a deserter. But the Word will find you out and try you and convict you of treason and lay the executioner’s sword against you, ready to strike the deathblow. You need to forget your supposed dignity today, you are naked and exposed, what you need to see is your desperation today. As Hebrews says, “today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart.”

The people this was being written to knew the truth, they had a decision to make, they couldn’t just know the truth of Jesus intellectually but then live like a Jew to avoid persecution, and we cannot know the truth about Jesus and live like the rest of the world to avoid confrontation, persecution and suffering. The knife is at your throat, what will it be?

The overall context of this passage is about salvation. If you are not a Christian, and this message is drawing you near, you must act now, you must enter in. The Word of God says you cannot wait; you may fall away for good. This passage is about repentance and faith, not going back but moving forward. You don’t enter in just by waiting around at the truth door, and deciding if and when you are going to enter. It doesn’t work that way. This passage is about entering into heaven, but it is also about entering into holiness. It applies to sanctification, growing in grace, and living the life God wants us to live here on earth. You must rush in while the door is open or you lose the opportunity. It may come again, but we aren’t assured of it.

Christian, you who think you have entered in, but you haven’t moved forward, you just sit there right past Kadesh-Barnea, and you haven’t taken any ground. This is where you are right now, before God, open, exposed. What secret sins are you harboring? What is God revealing to you? Do you ever pray for Him to reveal sin to you? You can’t move on, you can’t enter in any further with a self-willed rebellious spirit. You cannot go on and be greatly used by God unless you repent, and if you don’t hurry up and do it, you will only fall further back. Repentance is a lifestyle for the Christian, and you are either taking more ground, or giving up ground.

And you don’t get to decide what battlefield you are on when you become exposed before the Word of God. You can’t hide your heart away and never get worked on. You don’t have the right to let yourself be exposed only when you want to, or only in those areas you want to work on. You are already exposed, and you don’t hold the knife, you don’t know how to operate, Jesus Christ is the Great Physician. If you wait until you want to deal with some sin or something in your life, you will botch it up as bad as if I let a baby perform open-heart surgery on me.

We are rejecting the Word that we don’t act upon, that we don’t rush into. If we think we can store it away for a later time, then we lose it. We must at least begin to act upon it, we may not be able to take all the land at once, but we must cross the threshold, begin to take the land God has promised us, to defeat the giant sins in our lives, and not stay back at Kadesh-Barnea. As Christians we continually are up against giants, we cannot win on our own, we are always at Kadesh-Barnea, and every day we have a choice to make. To deny this, to stay back is to deny Christ who has already defeated them for us. It is disobedience; it is unbelief. We may get a chance to get it back, but our hearts will have become more hardened to it, unless and until we pray for it to come back and to penetrate deeply once again, and give us another chance at repentance and faith. Better to do it, to act while the blade is ready to do its work.

Now maturity is being able to understand things in their larger context, you know, the big picture. That is what the writer of Hebrews was pointing out; they thought it wasn’t as big a deal as it really was. That is often what we think, too. We think we have the big picture but what we have is hidden sin hiding in our hearts and thus hiding the full picture from us. We think we are handling the little details but we are missing out from entering into what God wants for us by not making the decision to enter in while the opportunity is there. We think we can still take care of that thing some other time, we can still keep that little sin, and that it won’t keep us from entering in, but we are deceived. Perhaps you don’t do some of the things you used to, or some of the things other people do, and so you act as if this gives you a free pass on the other stuff. That isn’t the truth.

The truth is that we haven’t listened to the Word of God. Oh, we may have heard it, understood it, and even believed it, in a sense, but we falsely believed we could act on it in our own timing. No, you either make the choice today or you begin to fall away. When we are our own final authority, instead of measuring ourselves by the Word of God in truth (Psalm 139:23-24 / Psalm 19:12-14), we are only wise in our own eyes (Isaiah 5:21). Now is the time, while and when the Word of God has convicted you! You either repent when that sin is exposed, or you retreat and become deeper entrenched in your sinful, rebellious, and deceived ways. You need to know this: Every sin you commit affects your mindset towards sin itself; every little bit ruins a little bit of your mind. When you don’t believe you can be deceived that’s when you already are.

We think we can sin, and still be in our right minds, but we don’t see sin as sinful as it is. Every little bit of obedience begins the change process. Every little bit of repentance brings the chance for more faith. The children of Israel had a choice to make at Kadesh-Barnea. And so did those the writer was currently addressing, and we do as well. We will either believe and therefore enter in right now, or we will fall back into sin, and wander around in the wilderness of worldliness. Yes by the power of the Word of God people can and do change, for better and for worse. Which is it for you? Today is the day. It is do or die.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Questions: Satan's Reason

Why did Satan rebel if he knew God was sovereign / almighty / omnipotent?

I have an idea, but what do you think?








“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Love Me

He who loves his wife loves himself.
(Ephesians 5:28 – ESV)

The title of our message sounds very selfish, doesn’t it? Yet in the light of our text, it begins to make sense. The text does not describe a situation where a man must first love himself in order to love his wife: don’t misread or misinterpret that. Despite what modern psychology might say, get the order right, and see what the Apostle Paul, guided along by the Holy Spirit was trying to tell us here. A man who loves his wife with all his life is going to reap substantial benefit personally. A wise man that loves his wife understands that it is for his own good.

This also applies to the Body of Christ, as we see clearly in the text itself. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). We are to love our wives and Paul uses this to show how we are also to love the Church, as Christ does. We are to love our wives and our church as our own flesh, in this we are to be Christlike because Jesus nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:29-30).

Of course, by way of implication, the reverse is also true. They may not realize it, but what men are doing in denying their wife their life is they are bringing hate on themselves. Now no one ever hated his own flesh unless of course they were out of their right minds. But that is the problem; men don’t understand what this verse brings out in bold relief. Many men don’t love their wives properly, and it is because they hate themselves. The same goes for church.

In order to nourish and cherish our relationship with our wives as we ought, we should see it in the context of this thought: if we are not loving our wives, if we are denying them some part of our love, if we are denying them some part of our lives, if we are cheating on them in practice or in our minds, if we are not nurturing and cherishing them, then what we are doing is hating ourselves, and no one in his right mind would do that.

Conversely, when we love our wives out of a pure heart motive what we are actually doing is something more than loving them; we are loving ourselves. Think about it: if we go all out for our wives won’t this make it better for us? Perhaps they won’t reciprocate but didn’t Christ give more than He got back? Do you want to be Christ like? Paul tells us husbands exactly how, in very simple terms. Christ loves the Church because it is His own body and we are to love our wives because we are one flesh. Improve you love life. Stop hating on yourself.

To Margie:

You are my darling, you are valuable and precious, you become more and more to me every day. May I love Christ so much that it spills out into every area of our lives.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY SWEET PEA!!!!!!!

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Incorporated

Now you are Christ's body, and each of you is a member of it.
(1 Corinthians 12:27 – NET)

I don't know why some people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from? Now, let us take this further than that, because some people are in church nearly every week, but they aren’t a part of any church in reality. Now, it is a good thing to at least be in a church every week. However, if you never settle on having a local assembly as your primary, home church, then you might be worshipping congregationally every week, you might be fellowshipping with people of like precious faith every week, and you might be hearing the word of God preached to your edification every week, but you are still missing out. And you are robbing a local body of your ongoing support, witness, and their knowing you and growing with you, beyond the superficial. You are not being knit together with a group, working together, growing together, not just individuals growing, but growing tighter as a unit, and that unit growing up.

Are you a vital part of a church,
or do you just go to church?

Some speak harshly about the church as an “institution” as if the excesses of some local bodies exempt them from being a part of any local body. However, God is the one who instituted the institution of the local church. When rebels refuse to be integrated into a local church, but only serve as they see fit, without being submitted to what others might ask or impose upon them, this shows that they still want to be the masters of their own way, and not incorporated into God’s way. We must be incorporated into the corpus, the Body of Christ, by being incorporated into a local assembly. We must be willingly submitted to a group, and intently looking to be submitted to authorities established by God. We must stop thinking we can serve as attaches or ambassadors to the Body at large at our own will without having to serve the body local at its command.

Those that do this are acting as spiritual tourists, and they are deceived. Without being incorporated in to the local body they are dead. They might be of real service to the Body of Christ, because God can animate dry bones, but they are only fooling themselves into thinking that their service renders them exempt from incorporation into a local body. Church matters to God; not just that you go to church, but that you are a part of a church. Not just a part of The Church, but also part of a church. The Bible gives no assurance to those who claim to be a part of The Body without being part of a body.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Exposition or Exhibition?

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
(Nehemiah 8:6 – ESV)

We as preachers are urged to deliver sermons that explain texts, that is, to preach expositionally. This is perhaps best defined as making the point of the passage the point of the sermon. Indeed, this is the right way to go about feeding the flock. However, in endeavoring to dig deep into the text in order to show you that it says what it says, there is a real danger of digging past the gold and being enthralled with the digging itself. We can become consumed, not with exposing Christ, but exhibiting our skill.

Showing what the text says is right, but it is about declaring it, not deciphering it. Proving it says what it says isn’t always beneficial. If a passage is unclear, then digging helps, but if it is clear, and most texts are, proclamation can be had without having to show how hard you may have worked to get there. Showing the process of our exegetical work can be overdone, to the detriment of the devoted, including ourselves. We can become concerned for the knowledge of every little nuance of a text, and every little meaning from the original language, instead of hungering for the wisdom to apply the text to our lives. We become hearers, studiers, and experts in knowing what to believe but fail to know the One whom we believe more intimately. We must be careful, because while digging is often necessary and good, we can suffocate by being trapped in a hole of our own making.

It can get to the point where we begin an atomistic break down of every verse, every sentence, every phrase, every word, and we think we have done every service to the text, but we haven’t. All we have done is taken every step to assure us of missing the forest from the trees. We have exposed, not the scope or the depth of the text, but the breadth of our pride.

In sales it is often said we should use the “sizzle not the steak”, but preachers aren’t salesmen, they are shepherds and proclaimers. Sure we are to make the meal appetizing, but we don’t feed them the sizzle, they, and we, must eat the steak.

Of course, surface dwelling of the text can be just as bad, but that discussion is for another time. When you have the basic sense of what the passage teaches, then you have the basic sense of the message. Please, have the basic sense to realize when to stop digging and when to start developing what you have already mined. We are creating a legion of Bible students who may know Greek but they don’t know God.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, February 11, 2008

February 2008 Sermons

2-10-2008 – Acts 5:41 – Worthy to Suffer

2-17-2008 – Philippians 2:17-18 – Poured Out

2-24-2008 – 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 – Connected



“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, February 08, 2008

In the Silence

And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
(Matthew 26:37 – ESV)

Imagine the scene that night in Gethsemane. The great swelling crowds that had come to follow Christ had turned away (John 6). Some that had stayed were now turned against, and they were coming to arrest and eventually kill Him. Of the twelve disciples, eight were near the entrance to the garden, but they were perhaps unaware of the great spiritual battle that was unfolding. They knew nothing of the event, their Master and the temptation, the prayer, the great drops of blood falling on the ground from our Savior’s brow, evidence of the most extreme spiritual crisis of all time taking place. In the silence the battle of the ages raged on.

Now the inner circle, the three, Peter, James, and John, they had been taken further into the silence by our Lord, deeper into the mystery of the garden. They were witness to the troubled, distressed spirit of the One whom they had known as the Prince of Peace. Suddenly they also knew Him as the Man of Sorrows. Jesus told them to watch and pray, knowing that they, too, were about to enter their greatest hour of temptation.

It might have seemed like any other quiet night, where Jesus had told His disciples to pray, and it didn’t seem like there was much activity, but the silence of the night betrayed the violence of the fight. The human crowds were gone, but the hosts of heaven looked on as the sinless Son of God faced His greatest hour of need. In the silence of that night the greatest temptation and spiritual battle of all time took place.

The road to the cross leads through Gethsemane. It can be in those moments of silence that destiny is determined. It may seem as if there is no action going on in your life, within your family, at your church, but indeed, it is in these moments that all hell is lining up against you to try and take you down, when you are in the silence, without a clue or a care. Jesus is agonizing and everyone else is unaware. They don’t think they or you are at the crossroads to their cross, they think all is well, or all of this must be stopped or that they are simply in a holding pattern, awaiting instructions at the gate to the garden. Or they have followed Him right to the edge, but are falling asleep even as He is interceding for them. How often we don’t realize that we are vulnerable, or that we are about to enter in to great trial and need to be watching and praying.

We don’t know the exact timing of when Christ is coming, the disciples had been told by Christ Himself that He was to be betrayed and killed, and would rise again, but they didn’t expect what would take place. We are caught and taken off guard even though we have been warned and exhorted to watch and pray (1 Peter 4:7). Are we realizing that someday, sometime, perhaps right now that the last person to be saved will receive Christ? And then, boom, all the events we pontificate about will suddenly begin to happen. The certainty that the fullness of the Gentiles must come in is biblical, and eventual, but we act as if it is casual, or not as cataclysmic as it really is. When God has filled up the Body, He will then unfold the rest of the mystery. Are we watching and praying for that to happen?

Are we following the crowds as they turn away to where the fun is when Christ makes us uncomfortable? Are we revolting against what Christ wants to do in our lives, drawing near to Him but with our own agenda? Are we settled outside the gate, having left from following Christ because we have not actually come in to the inner circle? Are we devout followers of Jesus, only to be sleeping in the most critical hour?

In the silence, when the great spiritual battles take place, when the crowds have turned away and some of the crowd has even turned against and some are waiting for instruction yet away from the battle and some are right near but falling asleep, where will you be?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Altar of Adrenaline


…watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires…
(Isaiah 50:11 – NLT)

What is it that energizes you? Most people work in the strength they already have. (Isaiah 50:10-11 / Jeremiah 2:12-13 / 17:5). This is what I call the “altar of adrenaline”. Are you living out of the energy of your flesh, or has God begun redefining the way you live by renewing your energy in Him? We’ve said before that bitterness is what energizes some if not most people. You see if we are being energized by our bitterness, we are not and indeed cannot be energized by God.

Do you have an altar of adrenaline? Some people are so used to being sad, they have learned to derive energy from it. They resign themselves to living in that state, and draw their power to live from it. When they hear a little bit of bad news, they immediately go into their adrenaline mode to be able to cope, and actually bring on more pain to give them more energy. Being sad spurs them on in a sense.

The same goes for anger. We create situations where we are angry at something that didn’t even happen. We imagine for a moment the “what if it did”, and become adrenalized and feed off the only source of energy that will satisfy us. We may even get up in the morning and dream up a scenario that will raise our ire, just because it gets us going. This is the reason for the road rage drug and its disproportionate response. This is why some people get high; they instinctively recognize a problem but don’t know how to deal with it other than muffle it through drugs, legal or illegal.

We have got to get a new workplace – the prophetic and not the pathetic. We are not victims we are victors. We are always to be working for the Lord. We need the right source of energy to do the right kind of work; otherwise all our work for God is wasted and becomes mere words.

People may not believe a word you say, but they will believe everything you do. When your actions line up with your words the conviction that people will see in you will herald the revolution to those whom God would call. You become greater than mere words, and larger than life. This principle holds true for churches too. We say that we are a loving fellowship, but will we prove it by loving the undeserving? Many can talk the talk; will we walk the walk?

We walk the walk by working together in God’s energy. Working together – its like fishing with a net versus a single rod. Instead of using our linked arms to pull each other up all the time (we do it when necessary), we need to get together on the same page. When we are walking and worshipping at the same pace, our linked arms are much more than a support device, they become a net to catch others. Casting a line catches one at a time; casting a net is better yet. Jesus said “I will make you fishers” – plural – of men.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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