Friday, November 30, 2007

Building Code

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Ephesians 5:33 – ESV)

When counseling engaged couples, some are starting out strong and have the capacity and potential to have a powerhouse marriage, and others need a lot of work, but the truth is any and every marriage needs a lot of work. It isn’t some start at the top experience; it is a long climb up, together. Some couples have the look of a team that will be a real winner, but I always tell them all, you cannot bank on potential, you must try and fill the capacity. You must be more than willing you must be intentional. It is not about “doing stuff” or going somewhere but being willing to learn together and trusting each other. That is a building process.

A good marriage is a building process, not a finished product. That is the main problem, obstacle, and failure I see within marriages of all sorts; they thought they would get by on love alone, but they didn’t understand what married love is. Married love must grow, from a “we are so in love with each other, we will always work together, and we never fight, so it will always be this way”, to a more mature, growing in grace with God union that sails through the incidental and inevitable rough seas of married life.

God allows couples to go through trials to show them, if they are willing and intentional, how strong the marriage bond can be. Steady in the midst of the storm, just like He does with all Christians as individuals in their relationship with Him (Matthew 7:24-27). This is the way of God, to show you He is there with you even when it seems like you are surrounded by opposing forces, and even death, and indeed you are. The truth is that you will be experiencing things that are unexpected because they will be unique to you as a couple, and we cannot give you a cookie cutter answer considering the dynamic, etc. However, we can teach you with the Word of God.

The devil is so into destroying marriage relationships because the marriage union is a picture of the love that God has in Himself, between the persons of the Trinity. And so when you enter a marriage covenant, you are entering into a spiritual war zone, and if you do not intend to grow spiritually, you will suffer massive loss, and perhaps even a marriage casualty. True godliness is the key to a lasting, wholesome, growing, successful, spiritual, happy marriage. One that not only lasts but also becomes more and more lovely as the years go by.

A good marriage is not one without struggles; God’s plan is for there to be struggles. God wants you to struggle, because He wants you to grow, and that takes growing pains. You can’t be knit together without having to be twisted and turned and united. Your marriage will go one of two ways. You will struggle as a team together, against some difficulty, and grow closer and stronger because of it, or you will struggle against each other and those other things will become “issues”, etc. Ask any married couple worth their salt, and they will confirm what I say is true.

You could have an individual life that is like a beautiful quilt, but if you are not being woven together then each of you will just be different cloth, and eventually one cloth will be jealous of the other, and the split will happen because their was no common fabric in the first place.

This wisdom from God is not only for couples about to be married, those already married, those who may some day want to be married, but even for those who have gone through the pain of a divorce. We need to continually make ourselves ready to be what God calls us to be, we must be ready to have a godly marriage by being submitted to godly principles before we can be ready, and if we are, we will be okay even if we don’t get married. That is the building code.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Loving to Lose

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
(Philippians 3:8 – ESV)

Too often we speak of repentance as a moral imperative but without grace it cannot be accomplished in the Spirit, for God’s glory, for the long haul. The imperatives of repentance are grounded in the indicatives of the faith God gives us. Holiness is rooted in forgiveness. God’s grace is given to us for repentance and it allows us to respond in faith to Him (Acts 16:14). God is the one changing our minds as we behold Christ and realize Jesus is more beautiful than anything else we would want to hold on to.

I want to talk now of primary repentance and progressive repentance. This is an area where we need more clear teaching, and it can be a real hindrance to some in their understanding of justification and sanctification. Some people seem to know they are sinners who need to repent of sin but they think this means they have to give it all up right then or God will not accept them. However, the first repentance is repentance of self, to repent of our faithlessness. Dropping what we know we have to let go of is first, our trust in ourselves, and then we learn even more of our own miserable sin and the beauty of Him.

We learn repentance while seeing His beauty unfold in our lives. That is progressive repentance. Primary or our first repentance is from and of rebellion in general. That may mean we have to let go of some specific things, yes, but it never means we let go of everything right off the bat, we don’t even know all the sin we are holding onto. It means we are willing to let go, and willing to repent, as God has made us able to do so. Then we do it.

Primary repentance will inevitably lead to progressive repentance. Our first repentance is like being in a war; we surrender, then progressively we begin pulling down the strongholds, deactivating the minefields, turning in our weapons, and destroying the embattlements. Supposed surrender is asking for forgiveness without laying down our arms, like waving a white flag with your gun drawn.

As an example a speaker at a recent conference I was attending said that he had prayed the prayer as a child, and rededicated his life as a teenager, but there was nothing to rededicate, he was still dead in sins, wanting forgiveness but not wanting to repent. He was drunk and doing the usual rebel things people do and praying often at night, sometimes while drunk and sometimes many nights in a row, over and over again for God to come into his heart and save his soul, but still God wasn’t saving him because he did not want to let go of his life. He had not been brought to true repentance.

Repentance unto salvation is not having to clean yourself up so that God can save you, no repentance is the other side of the coin of faith it is the first part that says we are willing (and yes God must make us willing) to lay it all down. We don’t do it all at once; we become willing to do what He asks. We drop our old lives, and the control of our lives as we are willing to trust God, and we pick up new life. We are not immediately cleaned up on the outside but there has been a change on the inside. Not simply wanting to be saved from fire, but a yearning to be close to Him who took the heat for us.

We may cling to Christ and He is enough; the only reason Paul can truly give these things up is because he has truly taken hold of Christ. Instead of just trying to get a hold of God let go of you and cling to Christ. Reckoning that Christ living in us accomplishes more than we can by our own power. The power of grace is greater than the power of grit.

Paul had repented of his old life as good as it was, in a sense, and was still repenting and teaching us that we should repent of those things we think will justify us before God, before others, before ourselves. When we hold on to certain things, and we don’t use our gifts to magnify God’s glory, then they become idols to us, and we become our own God, justifying ourselves. Maybe this is why God has not allowed you to have that one thing you so desperately want, because it would turn you away from Him permanently, so praise God that He knows better than we do just exactly what we need and what we don’t need. Perhaps, as you let go of that thing, that dream, that love, that desire, that idol, perhaps God can redeem that thing for use to magnify His glory. But you must be willing to give it up even if it means you can never have it back. That is true repentance, when God gives us a thirst for His glory, not our greatness.

If you want to give it up to God, if you want to truly repent toward God and receive Christ today, or if you know for sure that you are a Christian and you want to truly repent of some thing, of some sin, if you want a fresh power, than take a fresh look at the beauty of Christ, see His mercy, His goodness, His grace, and you will be able to stop trying, and just give it up.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good Riddance

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
(Philippians 3:8 – ESV)

Paul had it all and he lost it all, and no matter what anyone else may get or achieve, all things are nothing compared to Christ. Paul not only counted things as loss, he actually lost them, as we see him here, down from his lofty perch and into prison. He did suffer loss; he suffered the loss of prestige, position, popularity, power, and personal well-being. Now he goes on to say that they weren’t even loss, but all things are refuse compared to Christ. It isn’t like losing anything at all, as his perspective changes. Look at the progression even in this one verse.

For true repentance to happen, you must reckon that what you gain is greater than what you leave behind. You empty yourself of yourself; your heritage, your past, your social standing, your position, your passion, your performance, everything. Value the relationship with God above all else. Paul was speaking of leaving behind his Jewish heritage to gain something greater, which was Christ. True repentance is trusting that God is greater than what you think you need.

Paul represents the very best that religion, philosophy, tradition, moral excellence, and hard work has to offer – education, intelligence, doctrine, zeal, service, and so on. To be able to sweep aside all religious upbringing, moral philosophy, and tradition with one wave of the hand and consider it refuse is to know Jesus experientially as enough.

What we need is to see the true worth of Christ, and the more we see it, the more we will repent. It is not a matter of trying hard to give it up for God, it is a matter of seeing just how beautiful Jesus really is, and then we will gladly drop those other things in order for more of Christ. Now actually it is not more of Him, since we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), it is just less of ourselves. Jesus is better, brighter than anything else you may give up. God leads us to sacrifice ourselves (Romans 12:1-2) as we learn to repent more and more. We lose hold of our own life and God gives us His (John 12:25). It is not simply a state of mind, is it is a renewed mind that has seen a reality. It is a real thing, it is a tangible thing, it is more real than any supposed good thing you want to hang onto, or any bad thing you think you cannot do without.

When you see who God is, what He is really like, then you are being enlightened by God and can now repent. You need to see more of God, when Paul saw Jesus as enough then he was able to easily lay down his old life, in fact, he threw his old life away like it was garbage.

Paul did not have to try and give things up; he had learned to give them up as he learned the surpassing worth of Christ. This is the key to repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, and as we change our minds about trusting God, we are looking away from our sin and ourselves and to God. We can know if we are truly doing this because we drop what is in our hands, our heads, our hearts, and we long for God to fill what was really missing or veiled in our lives. The things we were once so passionate about are now replaced with a burning zeal for God’s glory.

Then we can look at our old life and say good riddance.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yes but Not Yet

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected…
(Philippians 3:12 – ESV)

Paul was saying that he hadn’t attained the fullness of the resurrection power; he wasn’t walking around like a ghost, like some do, all spooky spiritual when they think they are being super spiritual. This speaks against sinless perfectionism. Paul does not here or anywhere else in his letters speak of obtaining perfection by any single crisis experience. Too many speak of being sanctified when they are only sanctimonious.

Martin Luther said, “This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.”

George Muller said, “Just as a little child is a perfect human being, but still is far from perfect in all his development as man, so the true child of God is also perfect in all parts, although not yet perfect in all the stages of his development in faith.”

“Already but not yet” is a theme echoed throughout the New Testament. It is a looking for the consummated fullness – Jesus has won the victory, He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:15), but we still fight battles, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12), and we must continue in the process, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).

Jesus’ suffering for us paid our debt in full, And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14), but we still suffer for Him, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Colossians 1:24), and it bears fruit, In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Jesus’ is already reigning, For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16-17), and yet we are to pray that His kingdom will come, in fullness, He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, November 26, 2007

Peer Pressure

For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
(Galatians 2:12-13 – ESV)

We often think that we are above being swayed by the crowd. We think that when it comes right down to it that we will be able to resist the pull of the popular, but alas it isn’t so. Adults believe that peer pressure is something that only children need worry about, but that isn’t true. We must continually be on guard against an all too easy “going with the flow” mentality. It can creep up and put us in a compromised situation. We allow ourselves to become fearful of what others might think, say, or do, and we give in to things God doesn’t want us to.

Consider the Apostle Peter, who turned His eye back to the Judaizers in Galatia. Now this was the same Peter who saw Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), and had been given the Great Commission to go out to all nations, tribes and tongues (Matthew 28:18-20). Furthermore, Peter and the Apostles were told by the resurrected Jesus that they would receive power to be a witness to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Peter was taken captive and threatened, he was told not to witness about Jesus but said he ought not to fear man, but obey God (Acts 4:19, 5:29). Peter saw the Holy Ghost come upon the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17). He also had the dream of God making what was unclean now clean (Acts 10:9-15). Peter understood this to mean that the Gentiles were going to be saved and he saw the Holy Ghost come upon them also (Acts 10:28,45). He had even spoken up for God’s redemptive plan over and against the Jews who thought Gentiles couldn’t be saved (Acts 11:1-18).

Now his influence and the influence of peer pressure had spread to the other Jews there, and even to Barnabas. What a deceitful force peer pressure can be! If anyone knew of the grace of God to the Gentile people’s, who were saved without having ever been circumcised, it was Peter. And yet he succumbed to peer pressure, and it spread its venom to others. Peer pressure is something that can sneak up on us unawares. Even if we have our minds made up, and have resisted the temptations to go with the crowd before, we can still be ensnared in this trap, in an instant. That is why we must ever be on guard against it.

It would be like having a map to tell you where the landmines are on the battlefield. Ministry success, relational comfort, and just fitting in; these are the pieces of cheese on the trap. Don’t fall for the bait. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Don’t play nice with peer pressure; it will squeeze you into its mold.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Sermon: The Pastor’s Pulse, The People’s Prayer

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Here in this text is where you can hear a shepherd’s heart, and the sheep’s hope. If you wanted to know what God wants from you and for you, and what he puts into the heart of any shepherd worth his salt, this passage gives us some simple yet profound truths that can keep your Christian life going, and can keep your ministry burning hot for God. This desire is reflected in other passages where Paul speaks of his spiritual children as his heartbeat. Two examples will suffice.

Philippians 2:15-16 – that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 – For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.

Paul knew that his work really abided in people, so that if those people did not continue on strong with the Lord, there was a sense in which he felt his own ministry was in vain. This is the true heart of a shepherd, having fewer burdens for one’s self than for others, and not being content just with one’s own relationship with God, but longing to see others walking with the Lord. He has a burning desire for those he shepherded to become all God wanted them to be. I guess he could have titled this little section in 2 Thessalonians, seemingly insignificant, tucked away in the New Testament, “what I want from you and for you”. This is the pastor’s pulse.

Vs.1Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,

The first thing Paul says is that I need you to pray, and to pray for the success of the message. The pastor’s pulse depends on the people’s prayer.

Prayer here in the Greek means to keep on praying for the ministry of the word
(Ephesians 6:18-20 / Colossians 4:3-4 / 1 Thessalonians 5:25)

That the word would keep on running (open doors – others might hear the word)
That the word would keep on being glorified (open hearts – others might receive the word)

When you pray for me, pray for the spread and the success of the message, as it goes out during the sermon, on the CD, on the Internet, on the radio, in the books, wherever it may travel. Psalm 147:15 says His word runs swiftly, and that is what we should pray for. In 2 Timothy 2:9 Paul says that even if he is bound, the word of God is not bound. Even if something were to happen to me, pray that the message of the word of God would continue to move with speed and success.

I want you to consider something with me about what Paul is asking. Paul was this most amazing person, full of God’s power, and he prayed for believers to be filled with the same power and perspective and perseverance. And even though he was praying for them and was in authority over them and was further advanced in Christianity than them, yet he continually asked for prayer from people he had evangelized, taught and discipled, so that other people would be evangelized, taught, and discipled. Think about that. Those he had helped build up he was asking for them to build him up. Everyone has significance in Christ, in the kingdom of God because of Christ. The strongest pray for the weak and the weakest pray for the strong. The ultimate thing for eternity is not your job, your looks, your talent, or your accomplishments, it is what you did with the power that God has given you, and that power is about the word of God running forth, to be spreading rapidly and triumphing in peoples’ lives. Prayer is the pipeline for God’s power.

Even a new Christian can do much to advance the kingdom of God. Not just by praying about your own witnessing, and in your own life, but also by praying for the word of God to be running and to be glorified everywhere, with the preachers of this church, with the ministries and peoples of this church, within this community, and with the missionaries we support. We pray for the power of the word of God to be running and glorified in the lives of others and they pray the same way for us, and we all pray for the word to run and be glorified beyond us to others who will join us. Are you praying for it? Look at Ephesians 6:17-18 – Prayer is the hand that takes up the sword. Using the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, while praying, is praying in the Spirit. John Piper says, “Prayer is the power that wields the weapon of his word.” God remains the source to that power, but He grants us the privilege and joy of being the instrument of His power in prayer. God has appointed prayer as the means by which we all have a role in His saving purposes, which is greater than any greatness the earth has to offer. You just have to see things the way God does. He allows us to pray in and through to the victory He assures.

As happened among you (open testimony – others might grow in the word – vs.3-5)

1 Thessalonians 1:5-9 – a genuine and powerful encounter with the word of God. They were to keep on praying for open doors, open hearts, and for more open testimony. The word had ran and been honored among them and it was growing among them.

Paul wanted to see continually more fruit, more believers, more churches, more leaders, more open testimony to God’s grace like it had happened with the Thessalonians. If we keep on praying then the word keeps on running and keeps on being glorified and then we and others will keep on growing. This is my prayer for us, that we would keep on keeping on and seeing more come to saving faith, more believers being baptized, filled with the Spirit, set free from addictions, and living lives on fire for God and giving Him glory in all we do, having this church and its surrounding ministries shining forth as a light of Christ to our community and wherever the message may travel with us. My prayer is that we may reflect the light of Christ as we turn from our own selfish desires and turn to God with a desire for God’s glory to be reflected in others. Is the word forging ahead in your own life and are you going through the open doors looking for open hearts? Don’t you want the same thing to happen to others that has happened to you? Don’t you want this church top be a beacon of light to this area? If so, then pray for it.

Vs.2and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

First they were to pray for the success of the message, and than also to pray for the safety of the messengers (so that the message would be unhindered). Again, the pastor’s pulse depends on the people’s prayer.

Context: he is writing this from Corinth and there was a riot against his message (Acts 18).

Prayers were for deliverance in general and also for specific instances, that they would be delivered once and for all from certain situations and people. Are we praying for others to be delivered from evil, both in our church and abroad, both generally and in specifics?

Some will believe but some will not, not everyone will be as excited about the message; some will actually be enraged about it. It is the same today as back then, and we need to be praying for the success of the message and the safety of the messengers.

Vs.3But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

He told them to trust that they would be delivered even as he asked them to pray that he would be delivered. Obviously he was praying for them as well as asking them to pray for him, about some of the same things. He wanted for them to see God’s faithfulness. We saw in the previous verse faithless men but here we see that we still have a faithful God. Paul is trusting in God for their protection.

This verse means from the evil one in general, that is the devil and his forces, and also ones that represent the evil one, the evil one of the moment, the one that would hinder you. God is on guard in your life, that is what Paul wanted for them to know.

His word establishes you, that word for establish is where we get the word for steroids; when His word keeps running in you it will run into your veins like a mighty river, it will build you up on the inside and strengthen you to resist the evil one, and it will strengthen you to be more obedient from the heart, and, as we see in the following verses, He will direct your heart to know His love and to love Him more, and to know of Christ’s endurance and to be more enduring yourself.

Vs.4And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.

The commands were from God not Paul; he was just delivering the message (1 Thessalonians 2:13). They were already doing it but Paul wanted them to grow in it, for the word of God to grow in them. And he had confidence in the Lord for their sake; He is trusting in God for their obedience. He had seen it working in them already, he knew they were saved and he knew that they would continue to be sanctified, that they would grow in grace. It was not a confidence in their potential as humans but in God as their sanctifier. He believed in them because he believed in God. He believed in them because they believed in God. I believe in you for the same reasons.

John MacArthur – What is the duty then of the people to the pastor? The sheep to their shepherd? To be prayerful on his behalf, that his message may succeed and that he may be safe in the proclamation of it. Their duty to him is to continue in their faithful trust in a faithful Lord who will never allow them to be weak on the inside and who will never allow them to be assaulted beyond what they are capable on the outside but will always be there to strengthen and protect them. And the duty to be obedient, to continue in the presence or absence of the shepherd to follow obediently the commands which he gave them from God.

Vs.5May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

To the love of God – Is that objective or subjective, to the love we get from God or to our loving of God? Are we talking about God's love for you, or your love for God? The answer is probably both. I love that vagueness here. The Greek language provided Paul with a certain ambiguity that resulted in the fullness of the truth. God directs us deeper into His love for you and your love for Him. That’s both objective and subjective. When you look at it in the original language, you can't tell the difference and we feel that that's because they're both there.

To the steadfastness of Christ – It is the same thing here, both subjective and objective, the steadfastness or patience shown by Christ, and the patient waiting for Christ. It is His patience with us, and our patience in Him through endurance. God does all this, isn’t that beautiful? The people’s prayers, the pastor’s pulse, and our God’s power all working in and though us.

Paul is saying that it is his heart that God would give them a growing love and a growing endurance. Living for today with an eye for tomorrow. In Colossians 1:4-5 Paul teaches us that faith in Jesus Christ and love for the saints are predicated on the hope we have in heaven. The more we focus on our heavenly destiny the more we will see and experience this fruit now. This does not make us a bunch of monks living in a Christian ghetto, with an “us four and no more” mentality. On the contrary, such a hope is not to the exclusion of being active on earth, but to motivate us to action on earth. Our faithfulness and our fellowship will increase. What we love governs the way we live. Hope precedes faith, and faith precedes faithfulness.

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

The hope we have is in the temporal sense as well as the eternal, the short term and the long term, the patient waiting (KJV) for the second coming of Christ, and also God establishes us while we are patiently waiting Him in our situations right now.

What did Paul want for those in his care? He wanted them to be used by God (vs.1-2), be deepened in God (vs.3), delivered by God (vs.3), devoted to God (vs.4), and directed to God – both knowing the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ, and also becoming a reflection of them back to God and to others (vs.5).

This is my heart for you, that you would know about God’s love toward you so much that you become a reflection of it toward others. My prayer is that the steadfast power of Christ may course through your veins so that you may overcome any evil that comes your way, and that you would see all things as God working patience in you, and that you would become a living picture of the Rock that is Christ to all who encounter you. This is my heart for you, my vision for this church and its members, my personal prayer for each of you, and the pulse that beats within me and for this ministry. Prayer can accomplish all this; let’s make this our prayer for each other.

This is what Paul, and God, wanted from them and for them. These scriptures apply to us all. God wants these things for us and I pray for these things for you, and what I am asking from you is that you pray these things for me. I believe in God, and I believe in you. Let’s all pray.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Rain Song

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house…
(Mathew 7:25,27 – ESV)

At the end of Jesus’ teaching, the “Sermon on the Mount”, as it is known, He talked about the implications of either doing or refusing His words. He painted a scenario where our lives are illustrated by two houses. One house stands and one falls, both the result of inclement weather. The meaning was clear, do His words and you will stand, don’t and you will fall.

However, let’s not be too quick to think we are done dealing with this. Consider well the fact that both houses had a storm. Yet one served to destroy the house and the other pointed out how secure the foundation was. The truth is that the vagaries of life are bound to happen to all people, they are an irresistible event, in that they will come, no matter any of our plans. However, we can be like the immovable object, our being grounded in Christ gives Him glory when the inevitable storms of life come our way.

Make no mistake, in this passage and woven into the whole fabric of the New Testament is the idea that the storms will come. We cannot simply name it and claim it so as to avoid them. No way, because that would not give God the glory He is due, it would only save you from suffering and serve to sever you from sanctification. Besides, does it give glory to God to have you gloat about being in His supposed favor, or will it give more glory to God for people to see you stand in the power of His might first (Ephesians 6:10), and also to testify.

Friends, it is about the power to withstand the storm, not the power to withdraw the storm. Christianity, from the sanctification side, is less about being an irresistible force, and more about being an immovable object.

What gives God more glory? Indeed, it is more worthy of the fellowship of the sufferings of our Lord (Philippians 1:29) to be able to withstand the storm, so others may give God glory too (Matthew 5:16). Then our words will resonate, having stood firm on the Solid Rock, to give voice to His glory as a personal witness. The winds and rain will fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), the question is, will your house stand as a testimony to the power of God, or will it fall to the frailties of a life lived without following God?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An Increased Faith

And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
(Luke 17:19 – KJV)

So what is an increased faith, what does it look like, and how do we get it? Now I want you to look at the whole of Luke 17 up to this point and realize something. This all goes together. Look at it. First, He teaches them some difficult things, and they realize that they must have more faith in order to do these things, and they ask for an increased faith. Jesus gives them hope by speaking of faith’s power and then teaches that faith is not merely doing one’s duty, and then we have an object lesson of what persevering, increasing faith looks like. It does do what is asked of it but then it goes further and so its power goes further, not depending on doing its duty for the faith, but depending on God. Having faith in God not faith in faith, or faith in personal devotion, or faith in merit or service or sacrifice, but faith meaning praise and thanksgiving to God. Not faith to get stuff but faith that understands it has been given stuff already.

The nine received the outer blessing just as many are looking for and that was all they wanted, but the other man wanted Jesus Himself and was made whole. Sure he was looking for the outer first, but his faith had increased, he saw the greater miracle, he was made whole, and his relationship with God was made right. Health is great but wholeness is better. They wanted an increased relationship with Jesus’ power; the other man wanted an increased relationship with Jesus Himself. The nine saw their most pressing physical need; the 10th also saw his real need. You have received many blessings; do they cause you to look to God in thanksgiving and praise, or to look to Him for more stuff? He wants to give you more, more of Him, as your faith increases.

Faith is about the inner life and how it relates to outer struggles, not how to change the outer struggles but to change our inner perspective. Faith is trusting that no matter what your walk looks like, God is going to see you through to the other side of judgment. They asked for and received mercy but the one received more.

Here is an object lesson, more than just the body, living a life of praise and thankfulness is faith and it results in being made whole. That doesn’t mean going around singing songs all day, not that this is bad, but it means to be faithful to come to God for problems, do what He says, and be thankful. When Jesus has done something He still wants to do more; do you have the faith for it? Not for getting something out of it but faith in God no matter what He might do.

In Matthew 15:21-29 the Canaanite woman had faith even though Jesus seemed to insult her. Job had faith although God seemed to want to destroy him and everything surrounding him. Abraham had faith although God looked like he wanted to kill the very seed He promised. God has given us the seed of the Word of God to grow our faith spiritually, for spiritual things, to see with spiritual eyes, to bear the fruit of the Spirit, and He wants it to increase, to have that fruit be a blessing to God and to others. Do you want the faith for that?

The nine had been given a great gift, but the 10th man saw Jesus as He truly was, as greater than mere healing, not just great enough to give him what he wanted, but so great that Jesus became what he wanted. 17:18 – don’t miss the fact that Jesus calls Himself God here. The other nine knew Jesus was able to heal them and they received it, but the 10th man saw himself as needing more than just physical healing, he realized that he might have been healed, and that he may have everything he thought or anyone else thought he needed, but he realized he was lost without Christ. The nine saw their physical problem, but the 10th man saw his spiritual problem. His faith went further, his faith had increased to accepting Jesus to fulfill deeper needs than just the physical. He realized the great difference between himself and Christ, it wasn’t simply that he was a leper, and he came back, he bowed down, and he worshipped the King of Kings for who He was. All 10 men were separated from society, were healed, and made able to draw near to other people again. But only one man knew how he really was separated from God, he was made whole and drawn near to God. His faith wanted more than a part of Jesus, it wanted the whole Jesus, and he was made whole.

Is Jesus Christ truly the desire of your soul today? Do you know what you really need? How much of Jesus does your faith want? Are you looking to Jesus to make you whole? I think we all need an increased faith.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Faith is More than Duty

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"
(Luke 17:10 – ESV)

Jesus had spoken to the disciples about forgiveness and our responsibilities toward our brothers and sisters. Upon hearing this seemingly impossible task, the disciples had asked Jesus to increase their faith. He then described the potential power of an increasing faith, the ability to do the impossible with regard to relationships. And then Jesus teaches them about what an increasing faith is not, but how it begins (by being faithful).

In essence Jesus says, “You want an increased faith? Well let me tell you what it isn’t, it isn’t just fulfilling some growing list of duties, doing that is just the measure of faith, or faithfulness.”

Jesus describes faith’s personality; faith realizes God doesn’t need it, it needs God, and it is not our faith that makes things happen it is God. Our faith is in the ability of our Master not in our ability to muster, not in what we can do but in what He can do, not what or how much we do for Him, but in what He does for us, not in who we are but in who He is. If you can see this and say that you will have begun to understand increasing faith.

Most people don’t really want an increased faith, however. They want to work for God at minimum wage. They just want to know what is required and do what they think they are required to do. They simply want to dispatch their duty.

Most people are under the impression that the more you sacrifice for the Lord, the godlier you are. That’s a lie, and that isn’t increasing faith. Faith doesn’t see it as sacrifice, in the sense that sacrifice is something we don’t want to do. Faith sees it as something we get to do, and we want to be able to do, and as our faith is increased we can do, as worship, as the sacrifice of praise.

This is the beginning of understanding, that faith is more than duty.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Power Of An Increasing Faith

And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
(Luke 17:6 – ESV)

This is how powerful faith is when focused rightly. Jesus describes faith’s potential power, so powerful it is like this example, not that it is for this type of thing, it is for the seven, for the seventy times seven, for the spiritually impossible things. Increased faith is not really about the quantity, but the quality. Faith does impossible things, but primarily Jesus means the spiritual things, the forgiveness, repentance, restoration and such.

Yes our faith can see God do miraculous physical things, but too many, and I dare say most, even almost all, are looking only at or firstly and primarily at the temporal, the physical, the “I can see it with my eyes” things, and they are wanting the smaller of the two things. The spiritual is eternal; it is bigger it is more important; it is where our focus should be. The physical things are only temporal and they are only a shadow of the true power of faith, the substance is spiritual, the substance of faith (Hebrews 11:1).

What type of harvest are you hoping for? Be honest. It isn’t that God won’t give you temporal blessings or that it is wrong to want them, it isn’t, if you have your priorities straight (Matthew 6:33). If you are increasing in spirituality but not yet in temporal needs or wants, are you complaining, if so, then why, because it shows what you consider more important.

We usually think of faith as being exercised with dramatic, miraculous works. And people who only know Jesus on the surface see this passage as a way to do those “big things” financially or health wise in their lives or they try and minister to others through this understanding. It fails, and people’s faith fails. They fail and they realize they need increased faith, but they aren’t even looking at the right place. Now God can do and Jesus did do outwardly miraculous things, demonstrations of power, but that isn’t what this passage is all about. It is about it in a sense, that may be true, but don’t miss the application here. The greatest miracles of faith have to do with the restoration of relationships, specifically our relationship and /or fellowship with God. As we relate to God rightly we will relate to others rightly. We will see the object lesson of this as we move on, the outward miracle and the more of the increasing faith.

Mark 4:5-6, 16-17 – the seed is the Word of God not your faith seed of finance, or whatever. Giving to get back with interest is usury, something the Bible explicitly condemns. Faith is about giving all you have and demanding nothing in return. Faith expects that God will provide, but it doesn’t expect or demand that God provide more as we “do” more. Whatever God has given us grace to do faith does it, but doesn’t think it is owed something.

False teachers and those who don’t know any better entice, coerce, and manipulate immature believers with this demonic device to get them to supposedly work God’s plan when the are just getting worked over. Yes we should give and give abundantly but not so as to get stuff for ourselves or get God off of our backs, but to give stuff as a blessing to others and to give to get the burden off others’ backs. When we do this God is free to bless us without spoiling us. I want to be rich, spiritually rich, deep, and full of mercy and grace, truth and peace, wisdom and the knowledge of God, loving Jesus and loving like Him. I want increased faith.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Both Sides of the Coin

Colossians 3:18-19

My anniversary is tomorrow (Nov.5), and it causes me to celebrate the godly marriage I have with my wife, and the grace and mercy God has given us both, as individuals, and as a couple, growing together in that grace of God. Also, in the next few weeks, I will be officiating three different weddings. All three are under different circumstances, different ages, different abilities, different personalities, but all Christian weddings. And all have some different expectations, but all have the same desire and expectation for a good, strong, healthy, Christian marriage.

In order for this to happen we need to be grounded in what the Word of God says about husband and wife relationships. The truth of the Bible applies to any and all marriages. In looking at these verses in Colossians, we see that God address both sides of the coin, both husband and wife, with real, practical, timeless truth, and godly wisdom. I want to give some introductory remarks before we launch into the verses specifically.

Like all couples I counsel, some are starting out strong and have the capacity and potential to have a powerhouse marriage, and others need a lot of work, but the truth is any and every marriage needs a lot of work. It isn’t some start at the top experience; it is a long climb up, together. Some couples have the look of a team that will be a real winner, but I always tell them all, you cannot bank on potential, you must try and fill the capacity. You must be more than willing you must be intentional. It is not about “doing stuff” or going somewhere but being willing to learn together and trusting each other. That is a building process.

A good marriage is a building process, not a finished product. That is the main problem, obstacle, and failure I see within marriages of all sorts; they thought they would get by on love alone, but they didn’t understand what married love is. Married love must grow, from a “we are so in love with each other, we will always work together, and we never fight, so it will always be this way”, to a more mature, growing in grace with God union that sails through the incidental and inevitable rough seas of married life.

God allows couples to go through trials to show them, if they are willing and intentional, how strong the marriage bond can be. Steady in the midst of the storm, just like He does with all Christians as individuals in their relationship with Him (Matthew 7:24-27). This is the way of God, to show you He is there with you even when it seems like you are surrounded by opposing forces, and even death, and indeed you are. The truth is that you will be experiencing things that are unexpected because they will be unique to you as a couple, and we cannot give you a cookie cutter answer considering the dynamic, etc. However, we can teach you with the Word of God.

The devil is so into destroying marriage relationships because the marriage union is a picture of the love that God has in Himself, between the persons of the Trinity. And so when you enter a marriage covenant, you are entering into a spiritual war zone, and if you do not intend to grow spiritually, you will suffer massive loss, and perhaps even a marriage casualty. True godliness, as we will see in these verses, this is the key to a lasting, wholesome, growing, successful, spiritual, happy marriage. One that not only lasts but also becomes more and more lovely as the years go by. If you are already married, listen up, if you are still together it isn’t too late to use the wisdom of God from these verses.

A good marriage is not one without struggles; God’s plan is for there to be struggles. God wants you to struggle, because He wants you to grow, and that takes growing pains. You can’t be knit together without having to be twisted and turned and united. Your marriage will go one of two ways. You will struggle as a team together, against some difficulty, and grow closer and stronger because of it, or you will struggle against each other and those other things will become “issues”, etc. Ask any married couple worth their salt, and they will confirm what I say is true.

You could have an individual life that is like a beautiful quilt, but if you are not being woven together then each of you will just be different cloth, and eventually one cloth will be jealous of the other, and the split will happen because their was no common fabric in the first place.

This wisdom from God is good, not only for couples about to be married, or those already married, but also for those who may some day want to be married, which would be almost all of us. Even those who have gone through the pain of a divorce should take heed to these verses, and become the godly man or woman that Christ would have us to be. We must make ourselves ready to be what God calls us to be, we must be ready to have a godly marriage by being submitted to godly principles before we can be ready, and if we are, we will be okay even if we don’t get married. These verses contain principles that apply to all Christians.

Now we must realize that this passage doesn’t contain all we need to have a wonderful marriage, there is much more in the Word of God concerning relationships of all kinds that would apply as well. However, the things we see here in Colossians and the parallel passage in Ephesians are some of the most important, over arching concepts that if we don’t have down, our marriage is going down in flames, perhaps slowly but most surely.

There are two basic principles we see here, one, that wives must submit to their husbands, being both willing and intentional in that. Two, that husbands must be wiling and intentional to give their own lives for their wives. Not just defending them if attacked by someone, but giving up their lives daily, considering her needs as more important that your own. Looking to provide what is best, growing in the knowledge and grace of Our Lord to be able to do that, to actually know what is best, so that what is wanted can be denied unless it is what is best in that moment, which you must be willing to give no matter the cost to you.

This is the pattern of Christ, submission and love. He showed us perfectly with His life on earth, and it is the pattern for marriage that He instructs us to live in. We submit ourselves to God and to one another by submitting to our God given roles (Ephesians 5:21ff.). It takes a man full of wisdom and grace to be able to give his whole life in service to his wife, and also to be able at the same time to say no, and to say it lovingly, and to say it with accuracy, and to know when to say it, when it is right to do so. It takes a woman full of mercy and grace to be able to submit even when their husband doesn’t have it all right yet.

For the woman the question isn’t, “Is he worthy?” the question is “Are you willing?” Not, “Is he right?” but “Are you ready?” For the man the question isn’t “Is she asking?” it is “Am I intentional?” Not, “Is she submitted?” but “Am I serving?” The man must serve his wife even when she isn’t submitted, and the wife must submit to the man even when he isn’t serving.

The opposite of this is when both man and woman are both just looking to say no to each other. She isn’t willing and he isn’t intentional. She is looking for excuses not to submit, and he is looking to avoid giving himself completely to her service. They don’t respect each other, they don’t respect their God given roles, and they don’t actually respect God’s Word. That isn’t a marriage where Christ is the center and you are a couple at war with the devil; that is a miserable existence where Christ is only a figurehead and you at war with each other.

It takes a marriage full of the Spirit of God to have a man and a woman submitting to one another within their God given roles. The man full of the Spirit is able to listen to his wife and cherish her and trust her and allow her input and realize when she is right and do what is right. The woman full of the Spirit is able to allow her husband to make mistakes, to not struggle to rule over her husband, to not try and get her way when he has said otherwise, to cherish him, and trust him, and trust God that Christ will make her husband right more often than not, and that she will abide nonetheless.

It isn’t just about leading it is about listening, about learning, and about loving. To put these principles in practice will glorify God, and enable the communication element, which is so vital to a marriage or any relationship, it will allow it to develop and to become more clear, and the other issues to become centered in a godly relationship built on trust, trust in each other, trust in God’s Word, and trust in God Himself. So now let’s look a little closer and see what God has to tell us here in these verses, and also looking at other verses that teach us these same truths.

Vs.18 – The family unit has roles that were designed by God. If we don’t submit to God’s design, we don’t submit to God, and the devil will not be resisted (James 4:7). It’s not about ability it’s about authority. That authority is established upon the priority of God in our lives. It isn’t about talent it’s about team. It isn’t about intelligence it’s about order. If everyone is out of order, all your energy goes to getting everyone in line first, and the leader cannot even see if the decisions are right, he is just trying to get things in order first. Conversely, when everyone is in line and things go wrong, then he can see what needs to be changed.

Submission is not about inferiority, or about always keeping our mouth shut. It is about glorifying God. This submission is to the husband, not all men in general. We need to recognize that submission recognizes levels of authority; so that a wife renders submission to her husband in ways that she will not do for any other. God does not command that men have exclusive authority in the areas of politics, business, education, and so on. 1 Peter 3:1-9 could be subtitled “the mission of submission”.

As is fitting in the Lord: how we may look at this phrase gives us an idea of how people view submission in false ways. We see this as either, “yeah that’s right woman, God wants you to submit”, or we see it as, “yeah man, God says we submit only when you are fit”. The first view: as if we are as fit as the Lord, as would befit submitting to the Lord. The second view: only if we are as fit as the Lord, we teach them the standard of the Lord’s fitness by withholding submission until they get it right.

This may seem ridiculous when we look at it in detail, but these two views are indeed what Christian people think oftentimes. The first view is trying to extend the concept of submission, while the second is trying to limit it. However, what Paul is actually telling us with this phrase “as is fitting in the Lord” is that God has designed a role for men and women. When a wife doesn’t submit to her husband she is failing as a disciple of Jesus Christ, not just as a wife. Submission is about honoring Christ, not a husband’s talent, intellect, or decision-making skills.

In the first place, women should be very careful about who they choose as a husband. Instead of looking for an attractive, wealthy, or romantic man as first priority, you should be looking for a godly man as first priority. He should have learned to love Jesus before he learned to love you. If he is a truly godly man, he will be one who is worth submitting to.

Women are required to submit to their husbands, not just in spiritual things, but entirely. That doesn’t mean the man is to rule as a tyrant, or that she has no say. No, it is more like the husband has the final say in contested matters. Husbands and wives should listen to each other and be a team. Think of it like this, the legislative branch works together to craft laws, but the President has veto power. He doesn’t use it often, but sometimes he must. The man and the woman should be consulting one another on most everything, but in case of a tie, the man bears the responsibility and accountability for the final decision. This frees the woman; it doesn’t constrain her like a shackle.

A woman is not required to submit if her husband asks her to sin. Now this is not simply your definition of it, but a clear biblical case, if it violates the woman’s conscience she should speak up while still submitting, “I’m not so sure this is right, and I want to make sure I say that to you, but I will abide by your decision”. Of course a woman is not required to submit to one who is insane, or when they are being violently abusive, or when they are drunk or drugged up (not just because they got drunk one time, but when they are drunk and would be making an irrational decision, like, “give me the keys”). A woman is not to submit to her husband being in an adulterous relationship.

One can still be in submission to one’s authority without always blindly obeying every command. In other words, one can submissively disobey. Daniel and his friends demonstrate submissive disobedience for us. They would not submit to idolatry, but would submit for the penalty of disobeying the king. Daniel submitted to the authorities over him in Babylon, while at the same time he maintained his submission to God.

Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 faced difficulty. She was obliged to submit to God, to her husband, and to David, who had been indicated as Israel’s future king. David and her husband were acting foolishly, and yet she wisely demonstrated submission to both. She spared her husband’s life in spite of his foolishness, and she spared David from acting in a way that would be detrimental to his reign as Israel’s king. In both cases, she turned both men from their intended course of action in a way that did not violate the principle of submission to either of them or to God.

You might say, “Well what about this, or what about that?” If we are submitted then we won’t have to cover every scenario. Just to be looking for instances where you don’t have to be submissive means you are looking for a way out of being submitted. In general, if we are like that we don’t really trust God. If we really don’t want to obey but only comply to the degree that we must, we are not submissive. In such a case, lots of rules must be set down to cover every conceivable situation. However, if we are submissive, you only need a few guiding principles.

Submission is a fundamental ingredient of the believer’s spiritual life. True submission is undermined by Christians who practice stereotypical submission, a submission defined by very precise rules and practices rather than a matter of the heart. To do that is to resist God, having the form of godliness, but denying the power in your life. Instead of trying to fit your submission into the form of your personality, rather let grace abound unto you by submitting to the fitting of yourself into the form of Christ. Now we’ll look at the other side of the coin, the men.

Vs.19 – I how the KJV renders it, “and be not bitter against them.” We always talk of women not resenting the role that God has given them, and to be submissive to her husband. However, men must also practice what we preach, it is the man’s responsibility to find out what makes the woman tick, and to cherish her so much that he will make the adjustments necessary for her emotional well being. She is to submit, but he is to serve. This love is in the “present active imperative”, it’s not the general, “I love her”. It’s an ongoing, active command to keep on loving her, and loving means learning. He is not allowed to become embittered to this fact.

Ephesians 5:23-33 – By listening to the Father, Jesus Christ was instructed as to how best to care for His Bride, and we as husbands, if we are truly listening to Christ, will be instructed as to how best to care for our wives, and give our lives for them. This doesn’t mean doing everything they want, Jesus didn’t do that for us, but it does mean being so in tune with God that we will always be thinking of what is best, regardless of what it costs us. It is a high calling, indeed, and can only be accomplished by grace. No wonder the world cannot stand for this type of “role playing” because they cannot stand up to the standard of Christ. With God’s help we can learn to serve our wives as Christ served the church.

Don’t resent the fact that this learning will be a process; you don’t just decide you want to and try to do it you have to learn it. We don’t automatically know all there is to know about how to do this, because each person is different, and each situation is different, and your personal chemistry between each other in each situation is different, and your shared experience will also be different. It is not simply a cookie cutter thing, you will get some basic ideas but you will have to keep developing the skill. You must want it and realize it is worth because it doesn’t happen automatically just because you want it to.

Now it will go much better if you do want it to, but even then you will take missteps and make mistakes because she doesn’t know what she wants in a particular situation either, she may have not experienced this before and you two together may not have been there before. You cannot be harsh with them, you cannot grow bitter against them, you cannot just say, “well what is it that you want, what will make you happy” in some loud voice because the likely answer may be a loud “I don’t know”. Men it is your job to help her find out, and the Bible teaches that you aren’t to resent your role.

Think about Jesus and how His bride often acts: not even as nice as your wife. His bride doesn’t want to cooperate all that well and He doesn’t yell at her and say, “Well what is it that you want?” He is patient, kind, peaceful, and ready to find out and to give what it takes provided it is in our best interest, and He is so close to the Father He knows exactly what that is. So men you job is to get close to God so you don’t foul this thing up too bad, and to not be bitter that you have to learn what makes your bride bloom in every situation.

Guys, still think you are doing all you can and that it is all her fault? Still think we men have the good part and have it easy, ladies? Well I know many men don’t do these things and they just rely on a false concept of submission and let it go, but they will be losing out on a better marriage and may wind up with a bitter marriage. They will also be losing rewards in heaven for it, and ladies, if you put up with it you will be earning them. Why not both man and wife know their role and relish the opportunity to love one another in the power and grace of God?

There is no universal secret of being content in marriage, beyond the principles we have seen here in the Bible; love Jesus first and then love as Jesus loves. We must take these to heart, and then apply them in our lives as situations appear. In other words, we have to take what the Bible says and then learn it, which means we learn to live it. To learn something means more than saying, “Yeah, I see that, I know what it says, I believe it.” To learn means to make choices, to practice over and over. If you are to know in experience you must undergo the learning process.

You don’t just decide on it, or claim it, or speak it out, or meditate on it, or repeat the verse over and over on your refrigerator. Without concrete action attached to that, it is like using the cookie cutter without putting the cookies in the oven, without really engaging your heart. That isn’t renewing your mind that is just wasting your time. You cannot use a cookie cutter like that because those cookies grow stale; only fresh baked cookies from the warm oven of your heart will satisfy your partners inner desires. It is all about discovery and development. You must be willing, but then you must also be intentional.

1 Peter 3:7 – if you don’t live with you wife in an understanding way, all you prayers for her to “get better” won’t mean a thing, and it hinders everything else in your prayer life. Obviously this role development and learning process is very important, and we cannot allow ourselves to become bitter about it. To become like Jesus in His role as husband to the bride, we must be learning to love Jesus and learning to love our wives, increasingly, no matter how good we are currently doing, the standard of Christ is higher. By grace you can be doing it. It isn’t a matter of getting there it is a matter of going there. We submit ourselves to God and to one another by submitting to our God given roles. Do you want a better marriage or a bitter marriage? Is Christ the figurehead for you union or the life of it? Repent, and know Him today as a couple, not simply a couple of individuals, but a union in Christ, with Jesus as the power in your marriage.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why We Need More Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
(Luke 17:5 – ESV)

Today I want you to begin to know Jesus more fully, to understand what He is all about a little more clearly. Today I want to begin to increase your faith. It isn’t about applying heavenly power to those things that we want just as much as the world does, and getting them because we are on God’s side. It is about looking at God and to God and for God to give us things that only He can give us, change things that only He can change, not change things that worldly wealth or wisdom could change if we had them. No, He is about giving us things others don’t want, don’t see, and have no desire to be changed by.

Jesus is the Way out of things others don’t even have a problem with because they don’t see them as a problem. Looking at Jesus’ agenda and adopting it and applying it to our lives are how we can have an increasing faith. The eyes of faith are not, “God is going to give me what I want”, but “thank God He is God, and He will change me to do what is right, and think of Him as enough”. He will fulfill our temporal needs, yes, but He keeps on fulfilling our greatest need, for more of Him. Now actually it is not more of Him, since we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), it is just less of ourselves. The first step to an increasing faith is to see what we need it for, so that we can do things unbelievers cannot do, not works of power, but works of Presence.

Why do we need an increasing faith? Looking at Luke 17:1-4 we can see why. Temptation and frustration – we need faith to be longsuffering, to bear with one another. This is the difficult task. People will set traps, woe to those people, indeed, but it will happen, so be on the lookout. You leave it up to God; He will deal with them. You watch yourself, and you warn others, but let God deal out the judgment on them. All of that takes faith.

Real forgiveness can’t happen until there is repentance, but we are not permitted to judge another’s repentance if they repent to us. If someone had sinned against me seven times in a day, in other words, they kept on and on, and kept asking me to forgive them, I might think that they were not really sincere. Yet Jesus commands me to still forgive them. Great faith is needed to get along with people like this.

What is faith for? It is for enduring and engaging despite what happens. Look at Hebrews 11; it is not faith for stuff but faith in spite of stuff NOT happening, like these persons who keep frustrating us. Increasing temptation and frustration takes increasing faith to deal with. Once we understand this, then we can see what Jesus shows us in this text about doing that. More to come…

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Baptism and Communion

…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…
(Matthew 28:20 – ESV)

The teaching Jesus is talking of includes many things, of course, but it basically comes down to Luke 14:27, "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." Not simply hardship but dying to the old attitudes, the old, destructive ways, and living for Jesus, turning to follow Him in newness of life. John 8:31-32 – This includes evangelism, stewardship, fellowship, worship, discipleship of others, etc. It also includes Communion.

Just as baptism symbolizes our entry into the family of God and into the discipleship process, in a sense Communion symbolizes the teaching process, the ongoing discipleship process, and the all that I have commanded you. This is one reason church membership is like baptism, not that it saves or that you aren’t saved if you don’t do it, but that it is a sanctification issue, a growing in grace, and that is done in community.

Yes it is an individual thing, but it is done within the context of a covenant community. You are baptized in public and then you take Communion and attend church, which is obviously in public. Jesus said we are not to hide the light we have underneath a bushel. We are to be baptized for others to see and to know and we are to take Communion together, not as a private thing but as a public demonstration that we are following Christ, we are united together, we are being discipled within a community, and we are looking forward to His return.

Baptism into God’s church, the church universal and its local expression, are baptism into the community of faith, and that comes before communion with the community. Oh you can still have fellowship with those in community but you don’t truly share in the intimacy of what that community stands for unless you have been baptized. That is why churches down through history have insisted that someone should be baptized before they ever partake of Communion, which is the right order.

If you have been taking Communion at any church and you haven’t been baptized, then get in order, and get baptized today, perhaps this is the thing that will get you going on with God. You are missing something if you haven’t been baptized, the Bible says that plainly. Why worry about what exactly that is and how exactly to define it, obey the example and command of Jesus and the testimony of the apostles and saints all down throughout the Christian era, and be baptized because of the remission of your sins, set yourself apart today and set yourself up to be used of God today and tomorrow.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just Add Water

…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
(Matthew 28:19 – ESV)

Now Jesus explains how we make disciples, the first thing is by baptism, and THEN comes the rest of the teaching. If we are not baptizing, and baptizing first thing, then we are not properly making disciples. Again, you don’t produce converts, you make disciples, and that starts with baptism. You don’t make people believe, you make disciples of those who do. Baptism is the first step in the discipleship process.

Baptism is normative – it is a regular part of becoming and being a Christian – the established pattern of discipleship, established by Christ Himself (His own baptism and His command), expanded by the disciples (they were baptized and baptized others), and extended to all believers (Acts 2, etc.). Jesus made baptism a normative part of becoming a Christian in Matthew 28:19, and the apostles carried this out, and we are instructed to keep on baptizing, to keep on discipling, to keep on following the established command of Jesus.

This is why the church has always made baptism a requirement for church membership, not that baptism is what saved you, but baptism is the start of the discipleship process. Baptism is a requirement for those who are being discipled; it is the first step of discipline. If you have been a Christian for some time but haven’t been baptized, you are missing a key link in your discipleship process. If you won’t submit to baptism you don’t submit to Christ.

We are supposed to be taught to do whatsoever (KJV), and baptism is the first thing Jesus lists, and then He says whatsoever, but if you can’t do the first whatsoever then how can you expect to do anything whatsoever?

We speak of baptism as being important but we all seem to want to think of it as a salvation issue, whether or not it saves us or not, and if we believe it isn’t necessary for salvation we somehow believe it isn’t necessary at all. This is bad teaching. Baptism is a vital part of your sanctification, an indispensable part of the discipleship process, as our text here proclaims in no uncertain terms. It is not so much a salvation issue as it is a sanctification issue, it is setting yourself apart, publicly, declaring that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and that you intend on following Him the rest of your life, empowered by His life. We get so hung up on what baptism isn’t that we forget what it is, a command by our Lord Jesus Christ. How can you say you are being sanctified when you haven’t set yourself apart to be sanctified? Discipleship without baptism is like a lollipop without the stick. It just isn’t right.

To begin the process of discipleship, just add water. People that have been Christians for awhile feel like they have got to meet a certain level of obedience before they can be baptized, but they need to be baptized THAT IS the level of obedience they need to meet. It is not your righteousness that merits your baptism your baptism is saying you are leaving your righteousness down at the feet of Jesus and taking up His worth, not your own. Perhaps that is why you have a hard time obeying His commands you missed the first one! If this is you, get baptized today! Stop looking at yourself and look to Him, and follow Him into His own righteousness.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Doctor’s Orders

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith…
(2 Corinthians 13:5)

There is a difference between fitness and health. Fitness is how we look on the outside, our appearance, and the ability to perform at a high level. Health is about the inside, and our ability to fend off illness and disease. We can be fit but not healthy. We may be alive, and well as far as we know, but we have a malady that, left untreated, will spell disaster. This is why, even if we are “fit as a fiddle”, we need to be in the habit of getting a routine exam.

Jim Fixx was a well-known fitness enthusiast who wrote a book called "The Complete Book of Running." He died suddenly of a heart attack. He was strong on the outside, but not on the inside. Terry Fox, the teenager who was logging seventy to eighty miles a day running across Canada with a prosthetic leg on behalf of a cancer foundation, was the epitome of fitness. But he was forced to stop halfway because cancer was found throughout his lungs. He was very fit, but very unhealthy. There are many other stories like this. Perhaps some of these were told to get a checkup, but being fit, they felt, meant that they were healthy. Tragically, this was not the case.

On the other hand, most of us know of someone who has never been sick or needed to see a doctor, and yet who wouldn’t run even if they were being chased. They may not be “the picture of health”, but indeed they are healthy. They may be slightly overweight, they may not be very strong or flexible, yet they are incredibly healthy and have or will live to be of ripe old age.

The truth is we don’t really know if we are truly healthy unless we monitor our health. A disease can creep in unawares, and so it is wise to have that examination. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it has been said. As a bonus, if health is your number-one priority, your fitness level will probably be better than most anyway.

Think about that in spiritual terms for a moment. Our spiritual lives can become unhealthy, even as we think we are growing in grace. It is more important to be healthy than fit, but for those who want to look good, being fit is more important. We may be spiritually fit, that is to say, we quote a lot of verses, we know a lot of doctrines, we do a lot of ministry, and we say a lot of prayers. However, we might be able to do all of these things and still not be spiritually healthy.

For instance, we may be teaching Sunday school and even seeing the resultant fruit in others’ lives, all the while having a multitude of hidden sins, or perhaps even being unsaved. How many times do we have to see it before it sinks in: a once great preacher who falls short or falls away. God has always given us examples of this. Others seemed more “fit” to be king than David, but God told Samuel “man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 – ESV).

The Apostle Paul said that he kept a good check on his spiritual condition, “lest I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). It’s not how many verses you can quote, or how well you can articulate your doctrine, or how long you pray, that will make the most difference. That is why Samuel told Saul obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). It is about your faithfulness, obedience, and endurance. That is what counts; that is spiritual health.

The Bible says we are to take a look at the man in the mirror, and compare ourselves with the Word of God, rather than look at how we are doing compared to everyone else (2 Corinthians 10:12). How we think we look in the mirror isn’t enough; some people look and only see what they want to see, and others forget about it as soon as they walk away from it (James 1:23-24). Instead, we should “keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21).

When things are going well we often fail to check our spiritual condition. We may be going to heaven, but sometimes we aren’t as faithful as we think we are. We don’t think we need examination when things are “going right”. We figure everything must be okay because everything seems good; there is a sense of being in the favor of the Lord. We feel content but we grow complacent, and our zeal for the Lord becomes zest for life. This can sneak up on us, and then we are sick and don’t know it until it is a major deal. Peter said “knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:17 – ESV). To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Don’t concern yourself with power as much as perseverance.

When’s the last time you went to the Great Physician for a checkup?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

November 2007 Sermons

11-4-2007 - Colossians 3:18-19: Both Sides of the Coin

11-11-2007 - 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5: The Pastor's Pulse, The People's Prayer

11-18-2007– Romans 3:27-31: Justified and Living by Faith

11-25-2007– Colossians 2:1-4: From Rags to Riches

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©