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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Ironic Swallow (Radio / Podcast)

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
(Matthew 23:24)

Conspiracy theories have always been at the core of a rebel’s heart. Our human nature finds it easy to believe in a story where, lurking behind the scenes, a vast array of twisted subplots lead us to the conclusion that, just as we expected, some cherished notion is just a pipe dream, a fairy tale, or a paper tiger. “I knew it was too good to be true”, we say, and another anchor loses its hold on us. We grow up with this mindset, that everything is not as it seems, and this does have merit. Remember when you found about Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny? You were never the same, and you were now a hardened skeptic. Yet, also remember, this wasn’t the last time you were fooled, you have been taken for a ride many times since.

How often is it that we make trivial matters our stumbling blocks to success?

Of course, when the conspiracy theory revolves around something as important as your soul, then we might want to investigate further, but how many of us actually do that? We see the tremendous work this or that expert or authority has already done; we should trust them, we reason; how could they reveal all this and be wrong, or why would they lead us astray?

If the premise is wrong, however, then no matter how many items or how much counter evidence is uncovered, it has a faulty foundation, and it cannot stand scrutiny. Why then do we want to take a single thread of counter “evidence”, and let someone take us for a ride, while ignoring the vast volume of reliable evidence we already have? Ironic, isn’t it?

The point we are getting to is that people treat the Bible this way all the time. They see one apparent discrepancy in the Bible and dismiss it all, while they see one tiny shred of coherence in a horoscope or whatever and swallow the whole thing. We call this the “Ironic Swallow”.

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for doing this type of thing when considering Him.

Atheists and apostates have long been fond of this type of dangerous diet. They strive with everything in their being to somehow prove the Bible as false, and God as non-existent, or at least Christianity as myth. They only need that one item, that one piece of “evidence” to make the whole house come tumbling down, they believe. Of course they already have what they need, an unbelieving heart. If they start, a priori, with intent to disprove, God will most certainly allow them to continue to play the fool.

They know right well that Christianity has withstood the test of time, and has successfully defended itself from every attack, but there is no way that they will yield their stubborn, rebellious hearts to the God of the universe. It is that way for many of the masses; they would rather believe in some generic, fortune cookie type of spirituality than one based on an historical, verifiable reality. In that way, they won’t have to bend the knee. Or so they think. However, God proclaims that every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:10).

As far as trying to argue about this verse, it is actually straining the point – Whether it is “straining out a gnat, and swallowing a camel” or “straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel” doesn’t really matter, because either rendering gives the proper idea. The truth was that they were paying too much attention to lesser things when the greater problems got right past them, which, ironically, is what happens when we debate this verse. We wonder if it is one way or another and miss the point. Again, ironic.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Addressing the Ultimate Issue (Radio / Podcast)

He will render to each one according to his works… There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil…but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good…
(Romans 2:6,9,10 – ESV)

We all must address the ultimate issue. Paul has just told us that all the Gentiles are under the wrath of God and has indicted the Jews and the moralists as well, saying that none of us are righteous and that all of us are without excuse. But now he tells us that we need to pursue goodness and the path of righteousness in order to inherit eternal life, and that if we do not, we will have eternal wrath. Is Paul saying that we are all going to hell? Yes, unless there is a remedy, and that remedy is the gospel, the righteousness we need to inherit eternal life. We need to face the ultimate issue, and we can do so without fear if we have Jesus.

The Jews and the Gentiles are in the same boat. The judgment of God will be applied in the same way using the same standard. God will be just. It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or if you are a Gentile, all persons are going to be judged according to the same standard. That standard is perfection (Acts 17:31 / Romans 2:16). No amount of goodness by any individual in history is enough to justify them. No one has been or will be holy enough to merit eternal life; only Christ was and is perfect. Man left to himself can never climb his way out of his own heart. He will sink into the depths of his own depravity, unless God in His common grace restrains him, and until God in His saving grace rescues him.

Paul is showing us once again the need for the gospel; “each” means all individuals regardless of class, race, gender, location, nationality, or the like. The eternal life of everyone depends on the kindness of God, not our goodness. But it is not something we can presume upon. He gives it to those whom seek it with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

This text is saying the only path to eternal life is the path of righteousness. But what Paul has said before this and in the New Testament and our lives and the world all reveal to us that none have or ever will walk it except Jesus. But we can follow Him on that road by faith. We will not walk it perfectly, but His walk not our walk is what saves us. That is the gospel and out of gratitude for it and love for Him we attempt to walk that same path, knowing that our walk will be imperfect and that we will stumble and fall, but that God will pick us up and if we will get up and want to walk again He will empower us to do so. Like a child learns to walk so too we learn to walk and we grow stronger as we walk, but we must be careful to keep our eyes on the One who walks before us and that is what under girds us and keeps us from stumbling. Humbly look at the goodness of God, and repent of straying from or staying off of the path. Follow Jesus.

Someone who is saved does not presume upon the goodness of God, they act in accordance with it. The Jews whom Paul was chastising here were God’s called out people, they knew about God; they weren’t like those people in Romans 1. They knew they were called out ones, and yet they presumed this meant that they could just coast along, and they are wrong, dead wrong. God is calling you out; you must answer the call with humility and repentance and not with hypocrisy. Just because you know the truth doesn’t mean you are trusting in it. Those that do not walk the path at all are saying that they have no faith. Wrath or mercy, which do you want? Follow Jesus, and you will have mercy, follow your heart and you will have wrath.

THAT is the ultimate issue.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Avoiding the Ultimate Issue (Radio / Podcast)

…God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance…
…But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself…
(Romans 2:4-5 – ESV)

God’s goodness is meant to lead us to address the ultimate issue. Paul says that the goodness of God has kept the wrath of God from them (and from you) for now, not forever. People presume on God’s goodness and think they can just play the game of their lives any old way they want to. Paul is telling us all no way. Jesus tells us to store up treasure in heaven but some are storing up wrath in hell.

So many want to just play around and pretend that if we ignore this issue, THE issue, that it will somehow go away. Paul was saying that we had better make sure of what we are doing, because the Jews thought they were fine because they weren’t as morally corrupt as others, but Paul says they were heaping up wrath to be revealed. The wrath of God is thereby separated into two different categories: (a) that wrath which is presently being revealed against sinners as we see in the first chapter of Romans, and (b) that coming wrath of God, which is yet to be revealed against sinners.

Presuming on God’s goodness is more than deadly. All through life and even at death’s door people want to ignore the issue and distract themselves and medicate themselves with their chosen poison. Adults grow up and want to blame someone else for their problems, and we hire people to lead us back into the past to heal our wounded heart. Christians ought to know better than this. They should know that sin is the problem, and that sorrow is a part of Christian life. It reminds us this world isn’t all there is and that we are to remain repentant.

Some people may see their sin but they don’t see the solution, and that is why they medicate, ignore, distract, avoid, deny, and do anything they can to escape the coming wrath, and the wrath against their conscience. They do this so long and so strong that their consciences are finally what the apostle Paul calls seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). Paul describes it as being past feeling (Ephesians 4:19). They will look to anything and everything but Him. They will even try “being good”. They are hard and cold and dead to God.

The truth is that this hardening has been going on since we were children. We think we can let our children “off the hook” of making them go to church, read the bible, and such, but we are only setting them up for ultimate failure. We think they will grow out of it but they won’t because we won’t. It is ironic that we know we are supposed to mature out of wanting nothing but fun; we teach children this when they are young, but wonder why they don’t follow it when they are old. It is because while we teach this we don’t live this, we continue to foster the idea of fun as the ultimate pursuit. We either train them in the Lord or they are trained by the world.

How many people have you known who are old in years but are still as self indulgent as a teenager? It is no wonder our children grow up the way they do. We have such a confused conception of joy, we think to have joy means the same thing as to have fun, and we have lost the value of doing things meaningful, significant, and truly fulfilling. We presume on God’s goodness, thinking we’re okay, and we teach our children, our spouses, each other, and ourselves this deception. We are learning to avoid the ultimate issue.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Doorposts for Discernment (Radio / Podcast)

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
(Jude 1:3)

You may not be able to answer all the questions that might be asked of you, but the first step is about knowing what you believe yourself. A big part of doing that is being able to know what the non-negotiable matters are. This list helps you realize when something isn’t lining up with the Christian message and the teachings of the Bible. If they get one of these wrong, it isn’t Christian, it isn’t compatible with Christianity, and it isn’t worshipping the same God, even if it claims it is. These are the essential fundamentals.

Deity of Christ

Physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead

Trinity

Justification by faith

Bible as only final rule for faith and practice

Most all of the cults of Christianity place some other book as equal to the Bible or as a source for the interpretation of the Scriptures, the grid through which they control a person’s understanding. It is not wrong to codify what we believe the Bible to be teaching. The historic, orthodox creeds are useful tools. It is certainly not wrong to have books about the Scriptures; they can be a vital part of our studies. It is not right, however, to use books that introduce new doctrines not found in the Scriptures, things not taught by Jesus or the Apostles and not expounded by or alluded to in Paul’s writings (Galatians 1:8-9).

2 Timothy 3:16-17 sets forth the Bible as sufficient, and as far as it being only about the Old Testament, it isn’t true, because most of the Scriptures were already complete. Peter brings the Old and New Testaments together by saying that words of the Apostles were also authoritative (2 Peter 3:2), specifically referring to Paul’s writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Also 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7, so the gospels are included. Everything needed for faith and practice, life and liberty in Christ, we have all we need in the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:3-4). As a companion and disciple of the Apostle Paul, Timothy would have had access to these writings (2 Timothy 4:13). The Bible is sufficient: further revelation brings us further from God.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

What about the Weeds? (Radio / Podcast)

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-40

The field is the world not the church. Wheat and weeds together doesn't mean we must let them grow in the church but in the world. When we look at all the instances where it is mentioned, we discover that the kingdom of God refers to both the King’s dominion, which is all of creation (and where it is sometimes questioned, for now), and His special domain that His children are under, and will be “in” when in heaven, and where His reign is not questioned, the church.

When Christ comes again He will separate the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats. God allowing both to grow together means that the tares, the goats, are not finally judged yet. The wheat and the tares live side by side in a composite human society, for now, and God’s people live as a subset of that, until Jesus comes again. Christians are in the world but not of it. They are not supposed to try and dominate society or isolate from society.

Give a person power and you will see who they are come into focus. Many of our troubles come because we elevate a person who is a tare into a leadership position and they lose a sense of humility after a while. Money = power in some instances, they feel like it gives them sway, influence, ability to do what they want without reprise, extra room to be obnoxious. Their real self comes to the fore, etc., they don’t have to be careful and they let their guard come down. Then we see the weed start to grow.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Devil’s Cologne (Radio / Podcast)

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
(2 Thessalonians 3:10)

People become disenchanted with the local church, but they should have never become “enchanted” in the first place. We are supposed to dig in and plant seeds, not simply pick flowers. When the pleasing aroma wears out, and the novel gives way to the familiar, then the arduous task of willing work must be taken up. If you are not planting then you are only picking, and the flowers will run out, and then so will you.

We are supposed to grow with other gardeners. The exhortations to “one another” in the NT do not make sense without active, ongoing participation in the same local church; certainly they must include more than that, but certainly not less. When we become intoxicated with what we can smell as we casually walk through, while never also allowing our own efforts to be coupled in that place of planting with others, then we are guilty of stealing from someone else’s garden.

Visiting and enjoying churches is fine; never committing to a local church through thick and thin is not. We are always looking for some new intoxicating place, and we are always surrounding ourselves with sweet scents, and never mind the manure required in growing things, we avoid any sense of that scent. In doing so we think we are part of something pleasant, but we are part of something pernicious. Careful there; you may be wearing a false fragrance.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don’t You Know? (Radio / Podcast)

1 Corinthians 6:1-20

Paul had spent 18 months teaching them personally, and there were various correspondences between him and the Corinthian church, and others had come and taught them as well. Yet they still acted as if they were ignorant of how to live out the implications of the gospel. In this chapter, Paul takes them to task by asking reproving questions which pointed out their failure to obey God’s will. He boldly confronts them with “Do You Not Know?” six times.

Vs.2 – Saints will rule the world in wisdom (Daniel 7:22 / Matthew 19:28 / Revelation 2:26-27, 3:21, 20:4) – if you can handle the big, you can handle the small. They don’t recognize who they are as a body of believers.

Vs.3 – Saints will have authority in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 2:6) – judging (bad) (2 Peter 2:4 / Jude 6) and ruling over (good) angels – if you can handle the heavenly, you can handle the earthly. They don’t respect the authority of the local church.

Vs.9 – Saints are not supposed to act like sinners – if they are not going to heaven, you have no right to act like hell. They don’t act like born again saints.

Vs.15 – Saints should not be bonded with sin – if you are one with Jesus, you should not be taking up with Judas. They don’t understand the weight of sin.

Vs.16 – if you are bonded you have been bound – if you are joined with Jesus, you should not be joined to Jezebel. They don’t value the gift they have been given.

Vs.19 – the Holy Spirit is bonded with you – if God paid the price for admission, don’t give His seat away to someone else. They don’t accept the responsibility they have.

We need to be less concerned about our comfort and more concerned about our convictions.

We need to be less concerned about our rights and more concerned about our testimony.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, March 22, 2010

No You’re Not (Radio / Podcast)

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:2 – ESV)

You are not preaching the Word if you are not preaching

· the whole counsel of God
· the Word being Christ, redemptive history
· gospel saturated more than morally motivated

You are not up to the biblical standard of preaching if you are not ready

. in season (comfortable atmosphere)
. out of season (confrontational atmosphere)

You are not preaching the Word if that word doesn’t ever

. reprove (expose)
. rebuke (correct)
. exhort (encourage)

You are not truly preaching as you ought if it is not done with

. complete patience (done by following the process of expose, correct, and encourage)
. teaching (instruction is more than just inspiration)

For the time will come, to all preachers, the test of fidelity

2 Corinthians 2:17 / 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6 / 2 Peter 2:1-3

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

All New Stuff!!!

Starting Monday, March 22, we will have brand new posts with our new audio/radio/podcast availability for each day.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


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Friday, March 05, 2010

Christian Success (Radio / Podcast)

…Then you will be prosperous and successful.
(Joshua 1:8 – NIV)

One sign of spiritual immaturity is the desire to minister before the time is right. People start to “get right” with God, they finally attend church regularly, and then they feel like they are supposed to go out and conquer the world for God. A person starts to really believe, and they want to put into practice the things they are learning, and that is good. They should be sharing their faith, yes, but not starting some “big idea” ministry. The problem lies in the fact that they aren’t as equipped as they think they are. They are well intentioned, but they are not ready to lead. They may be great leaders in the world, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to lead in the kingdom of God, not yet at least.

They need to learn more than simple desire for God. You have to learn to lead, and it is a process. They need to learn to serve before they can learn to lead, and they have to learn to submit before they can learn to serve. They need to learn to obey before they learn to submit. That is the order: obedience, submission, service, and then, and only then, leadership. Said another way, your actions, attitudes, availability, and then ability.

Most people understand how material stuff has a way of keeping you from God. Well it is the same with ministry stuff. We go from one bad thing to another, we trade one love of stuff for another, we feel like we have licked the covetousness bug concerning material things, just to turn around and find that bug right back on us regarding ministry things. Instead of acquiring material we acquire ministry, and we are blind to the fact that God still doesn’t have our heart, not in that area, at least.

If this is you, you need to realize that this isn’t the way to please God, by doing more stuff for God. Just as your money doesn’t buy influence with God, neither will that big plan you have. What God wants, and requires, of you is that you stay humble, and worshipful, repentant, and submissive, and in order with your family life, loving your wife or husband and respecting them, giving to your children’s lives before you give to your church life, building your personal and family spiritual life before you build your ministry life, and so forth. That is Christian success. No amount of ministry success will change that.

I challenge you to redefine what you think is Christian “success”. Have you truly replaced your understanding of worldly success with a biblical one, or are you just using the same standard and “baptizing” it with words like ministry, and victory. Look again at “acquiring” and “avoiding” – this is what most people, even after they become Christians, think victorious living is about, and they are wrong, dead wrong. Faith without works is dead, yes, but works without faith is death itself. Trying to acquire in order to please God is not faith, and doing for others without caring for home is not faithfulness. Avoiding is not faith its fear. It’s not care, its control.

Remember what Jesus said about faithfulness in another ministry (Luke 16:10-12)? What makes you think you can have this pulpit or parachurch ministry when you cannot even commit to the ministry of the local church, or your ministry at home? Learning to serve means learning to do what the church already knows it needs, not coming up with something you want to do and calling that service. Acquiring ministry is not the measure of spirituality.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Principles for Prudence (Radio / Podcast)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
(Colossians 3:16 – ESV)

The church looks like it has lost the power to stand apart from the crowd. We cannot ignore the problem (as some do), just acting superior won’t help, and finger pointing is simply hypocritical. We’re living with sin, rather than looking at Him. Our families are crumbling, our children are crushed, and our churches are confused. We continue to slide into a mindset that thinks more like the world than Christ.

The problem is what we are doing with our freedom in Christ. Certainly we are free in Christ (Galatians 5:1), and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17), but many have been caught up in a false gospel that sees grace as a license to sin with impunity (Galatians 5:13 / 1 Peter 2:16). As a supposed answer to this, we have many churches and teachers who believe that it’s a sin to wear pants, cut your hair, or go to the bowling alley.

Now no one needs to ask if it is okay to commit adultery, steal, cheat, or lie, but what about those things that the Bible seems to be silent about? What is the right balance? What kind of music should I listen to? Can I go see a movie? Can I go to a “sports bar” to watch the game with friends? What can or should I wear? What can I do on Sunday? Things can in themselves be indifferent, or neutral, but for the Christian it is a matter of the right use of matters indifferent.

1 Corinthians gives us seven principles that will help us to allow our freedom in Christ to glorify God. This isn’t about new laws; it is about principles that will keep us from falling into trouble, and helping others not to stumble at our liberty. These aren’t universal rules for you to impose on others; they are guidelines for you to regulate your decision-making. Prudence is about making mature decisions, the wise exercise of our freedom in Christ. This is all about renewing your mind (Romans 12:1-2 / Ephesians 4:22-24).

Principle #1 –
Masterywill this bring me into bondage? 1 Corinthians 6:12
Ephesians 4:27 / Romans 13:14 / 2 Peter 2:19 / Titus 1:15-16, 2:11-12

Principle #2 –
Moralitywill this defile God’s temple? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Psalm 101:3 / 2 Corinthians 7:1 / 2 Corinthians 10:12

Compare yourself to God, not yourself, or others. Not about smoking or drinking, per se, but about getting drunk, altered states, gluttony, looking at pornography, etc. It’s about morals here.

Principle #3 –
Maturitywill this cause anyone to stumble? 1 Corinthians 8:8-9
Romans 14:20-21 / Philippians 2:3-4 / Romans 12:10

Principle #4 –
Ministrywill this edify me and/or others? 1 Corinthians 10:23
Galatians 5:22-23 / Ephesians 4:29 / 1 Peter 4:10-11 – Don’t be pugnacious with our liberty

Principle #5 –
Mind will this violate my conscience? 1 Corinthians 10:25-29
Romans 14:23 – Some things that will tempt me will not tempt others / James 4:17

Principle #6 –
Magnifywill this bring glory to God? 1 Corinthians 10:31
Ephesians 5:15-20 / Colossians 3:17,23 / 1 Timothy 4:4-5

Principle #7 –
Missionwill this hurt my witness? 1 Corinthians 10:32-33
Matthew 5:16 / 1 Thessalonians 5:22 / Ephesians 5:3-8 / Philippians 2:15 / Colossians 4:5

Some things are not all bad, but they aren’t any good either. Don’t be looking to “help out” the witness by succumbing to the culture. Christianity is the solution to culture. Yes you can have a tattoo and go to heaven, but we don’t need to get a tattoo to show others the way to heaven.

Not isolated but insulated. Avoiding a bad witness by going to secret hideouts to do bad things is not fooling God. Your life is a witness everywhere, whether you want it to be or not. In a sense, God is more interested in those you don’t know because His power burns brighter in your witness (lifestyle – 1 John 3:18) there because you don’t have the power of your other relationships.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Christ the Convertible? (Radio / Podcast)

…Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee…
(Acts 16:18)

We believe that the presumption of faith is borne of a lack of humility, and this passage helps demonstrate why. Of course, an evil spirit was using this woman and this caused her deception. However, while many today may not be possessed by a demon, they may have been taken captive to do his will nonetheless (2 Timothy 2:26). This plays out as us presumably submitting ourselves to God, but in reality, we are just using God like a taxi driver, hoping He will get us from one point to another, with the fare being lip service.

In this passage the woman was used to having power, and the only way to keep her demonically inspired self-importance intact was to tell everyone else that she knew the truth. So even though she wasn’t the “men from God”, she would be their herald: a John the Baptist role, if you will. Can you imagine the response to Paul’s rebuke, if given today? Sure you can, you’ve heard it before: “I was only trying to help!”

Rather than letting God work as ordained through the Apostles, her psyche needed to be involved somehow. She must have thought she was doing the right thing, by being “helpful”; she was telling the truth, after all. But hers was a presumption of faith, and Paul saw through this; he understood that this was only a distraction to God’s work, not a benefit. Just because we know truth does not mean we know how to use it correctly. This example of presumption shows the ability of our sinful nature to be “rightly” doing wrong.

It would seem that some think to surrender to Jesus, but have the mistaken notion that they can do what they want as far as service is concerned. But God wants us to be humble enough to admit that we aren’t right to have the mentality of, “If I decide to serve I get to do it my own way”. That isn’t service that is selfish. You may sacrifice time, money, talent, or whatever but still not sacrifice your will. “Okay I’ll serve but you still aren’t going to tell me what to do”, is the intent of the heart.

Service without submission can be well-intentioned, but will be ineffective, it is often professional, paternalistic, problem solving, and wanting to do good by “sharing” from a position of superiority. The Bible deliberately pushes us into the area of discomfort, forcing us to accept a posture of submission until our pride is exposed, and our desire to be controlling is revealed. Instead we have no control over our own lives and yet we want to and think we can help others.

Acts 8 tells the story of Simon, another who was accustomed to being important. He presumed that when he became a Christian he could “use” his supposed relationship with Jesus to further his own selfish ends, all in the name of God. How often we turn Christ into just another means of getting what we truly want. Many claim Christ, but whether they see it or not, they are using Jesus as a vehicle to achieve their own fleshly desires. We may come to Him as financial broker, family counselor, job hunter, personal doctor, and all these things, yet He doesn’t have our heart. We treat Him as our servant instead of our Master. He is to us but a tool for our personal gain. He becomes one of the fleet of methods used: the convertible model, if you will.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Chocolate Milk (Radio / Podcast)

feed me with the food that is needful for me
(Proverbs 30:8 - ESV)

Have you understood the truth that where God places you He graces you (2 Corinthians 12:9)? When you look back on your life, and as you grow in grace, you discover the hand of providence has always been there for you. It has taken on and worked through many forms. The life of Christ has incarnated in more than one person you have encountered, and this has helped you along your way.

One way is through the parents. Babies cannot feed themselves. Toddlers may be able to stuff food in their mouths, but they cannot handle proper eating utensils. Children may be able to use a knife and a fork, but left to their own devices they would subsist on a diet of sweets and snacks. Teenagers may be able to cook for themselves, but how many would have a regular menu of burritos and fries, sodas and chips? No, the parents have to control the diet of their children, in order to best facilitate their growth and health. The child’s responsibility is to eat; the parent’s responsibility is to feed.

This is the way it is with God. When we pray and study as “baby Christians”, we are not so ready yet to be able to feed on the meat of the Word. The Bible declares that we are to “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Just as a toddler moves into adolescence, and can now feed themselves, yet they remain in need of a parent to control their diet, lest they eat nothing but “junk food”.

However, just as a toddler isn’t ready to eat a steak, some of us as believers are “such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12). We haven’t yet moved on into a more mature state. This is why Paul told the Corinthians that “I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able” (1 Corinthians 3:2 – ASV).

Indeed, it would seem that even considering milk, we often have need of help digesting the truth. Perhaps you have known of children, whom their mother or father was trying to get used to drinking milk? The children resist, but will comply when a small amount of chocolate is added. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” it has been said.

The problem is when our “daily bread” is the “bread of affliction” – what then? Well, hard as it may seem, one of God’s gifts to us in affliction is that we may experience His Word in a way that we otherwise could not. It is in this place of grace where we learn some of God’s most profound truths. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71).

Martin Luther discovered this “method” of seeing God in His Word. He said there are three rules for understanding Scripture: praying, meditating and suffering trials. The “trials,” he said, are supremely valuable: they “teach you not only to know and understand but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s word is: it is wisdom supreme.”

Therefore the devil himself becomes the unwitting teacher of God’s word: “the devil will afflict you [and] will make a real doctor of you, and will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God’s Word. For I myself . . . owe my papists many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil’s raging that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached” (What Luther Says, vol. 3 [Concordia Publishing House, 1959], p. 1360).

Well, that is Luther, a “spiritual giant" you might say. What about us as adults, as we are growing in grace? We are told to ask for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11): but is it okay to ask for “chocolate milk” when we ask?

The answer is yes. Perhaps it might be the necessary ingredient we need to be able to digest the truth God is feeding us on. We might liken this to James telling us to ask for wisdom (James 1:5), or to finding the way to escape out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). In any event, we can be sure God has made a provision for us (Genesis 22:13-14). His grace is sufficient.

We must let God control our diet, and not eat too much junk food. But when the going gets tough, it could be wise to ask for a little “chocolate milk” to go with the bread of affliction.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Cheek to Cheek or Tooth & Nail (Radio / Podcast)

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
(Matthew 5:39 – ESV)

When Christians are attacked are they supposed to defend themselves? Does our Lord’s word here mean that we are to be complete pacifists? This is a very misunderstood concept, and we need clarification. This word from Our Lord isn’t intended to teach us to invite more attack upon being attacked, but to rather take it and not strike back. In demonstration, when smitten on the face, Jesus did not strike back but He did answer (John 18:22-23).

What Christ is teaching is the principle that we are not to seek absolute retribution, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but rather to allow space for God to judge (Romans 12:19/ 1 Peter 2:21-23). This is about our means of defense. We can speak up for our position (Acts 22:1, 25:8, 26:2 / 1 Corinthians 9:3). We can defend ourselves from being killed (Luke 22:36-38) but not look to be on the offensive (Matthew 26:52).

This situation Jesus is speaking of is different than self-defense. Self-defense is preventative, not retaliatory, and retaliation is what the admonition to “turn the other cheek” addresses. When Jesus says we are to turn the other cheek, He is saying that as Christians we are to act differently, not looking to do as we once did as unbelievers (Matthew 5:40-47). We are not supposed to try and protect our honor, our reputation, and our dignity at all costs (1 Peter 3:14-17).

Otherwise, if we are never to defend ourselves, the full armor of God isn’t something we should use, is it? No, on the contrary, we are taught to resist the devil (James 4:7). We do not wrestle with flesh and blood in the sense that the forces behind the attacks on our mind are orchestrated by the devil (Ephesians 6:12). When the enemy attacks our minds we are to battle back with the truth of God’s Word.

Sometimes, however, attacks can come against our physical person, and the full counsel of God must be brought to bear. We are not supposed to return fire when fired upon for witnessing of Christ. We are not supposed to be aggressors, of that we can be certain. We defend the faith (Jude 3 / 2 Corinthians 10:3-5), but not fight tooth and nail for our own self-interests (Romans 12:16-21 / Philippians 2:3-4 / 1 Peter 3:9). In other words, we don’t fight to prove we’re right.

However, we may fight to prevent wrong. It depends on the situation, of course. When someone physically attacks us they are under the influence of the enemy. If it is while we are witnessing, then yes, we shouldn’t retaliate if they insult us or even if they hit us (1 Peter 4:13-14). However, if it is an “unprovoked” incident, say during a robbery or break-in of your home, then it is our duty to fight off the intruder with the necessary force. You may be able to talk the person out of it, but sometimes you don’t have time to talk.

When the enemy uses a person to attack we need to understand the truth of God’s Word concerning these matters. Defend the faith from false religion, definitely. Defend your honor with physical violence when someone falsely accuses you because you are a Christian? No, turn the other cheek. Defend your wife and children when someone breaks into your home at night and is trying to kill them, yes, and do it tooth and nail.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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