Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where Are You?

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?"
(Genesis 3:9 – ESV)

So where are you on Sunday mornings? If you aren’t in church you are in the wrong place. Like Adam and Eve you may be in the garden but when God comes looking you are hiding away. When you aren’t in church you aren’t where you are supposed to be, you are hiding out with some tree in front of you. You have gathered some leaves together to cover the fact that you are exposed, wandering and naked before God.

You cannot say that you are growing in God if you aren’t growing with a church. It is a simple observable fact that when someone is moving on with God they will be plugged in to a local body of believers. Those that are growing to love God will be growing to love God’s people. How can you say you are drawing closer to God when you are not drawing closer to those other people He has redeemed? If you are advancing in your walk with God you will find the steps to the cross lead right to your local church door.

When a man is free to choose and more often than not chooses to play instead of pray, he is exposed for the man he really is. When a man chooses to pray but never in company, when he more often than not would keep himself from the congregation instead of being a part of it, then his prayer is a reflection of his desire to have a private faith alone.

Alone, without God’s people with him. Alone, without having to deal with others and their struggles together. Alone, outside of the place where God established, the church, where we meet with God and with one another to serve each other and God. Alone. Their prayer is to be alone, and God will grant it. They will be alone.

When God comes calling in the place where He is moving, the church, He will have to ask, “Where are you?” when we all know where you ought to be. All the while thinking that you are hiding God in your heart when you are just hiding out, instead of letting the Light shine. If this is you, then the answer to the question is, “In the dark”.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

500 Posts

This post is our 500th here at Voice of Vision. Over 400 of the previous posts have been scriptural devotions, meditations, sermon slices, etc. We have been posting new articles 5 days a week for some time, and we do occasionally bring back old posts, as we have been blessed with new readers as time has gone on.

This post will have links to the last three sermons I have preached this January, 2008. They are also to be found on our audio sermon page, located just below the profile box to the right. We continually update this page with the latest messages for each month as soon as we can get them uploaded.

I would like to say thank you to all of our readers, and especially to those who may comment, it is encouraging. I pray that we will continue to bring you fruitful posts that give you insight into scripture. I pray that we will illuminate the marvelous character of God, and the beauty of Jesus Christ. I pray that we may equip you to grow in the faith and understand key doctrines, sort out complex issues, and nurture a hungry desire and stoke the fires of a passion for God to be glorified in all we say and do. This is my vision, may God continue to give it voice.

1-13-08 - Hebrews 4:11-13 - Do or Die

1-20-08 - Hebrews 4:14-16 - Since We Do, We Can

1-27-08 - Ezra 8:21-23 - When You Are Hungry

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who Are You Voting For?

Tuesday, January 29 is the Florida Presidential primary. Soon, most of the rest of the country will also have voted. Now no matter where you live, even if it is another country and you won't be voting at all in our elections, I have some questions.

What I want to know is who are you voting for (or who would you be), and why.

Who would you like to see win?

Have you prayed about it?

I do have something to say to those who talk of a candidate being "unelectable", or something like that. Of course they are unelectable, if you don't vote for them.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Special: Pastor Dave Arnold #9


Charles Kingsley was an English clergyman and novelist. Born in 1819, he was educated in private schools, and then at King’s College in London. He became chaplain to Queen Victoria, and taught history at Cambridge University. His two most famous novels are “Westward Ho!,” an adventure story, and “Water Babies,” an exciting lesson in the wonders of nature. He died in 1875. When asked what was the secret of his blessed life, he answered, “I had a friend.”

Barzillai first appears at a crucial moment in King David’s life. He was a rich man, an influential citizen, and a friend to his heart-stricken king. His story is found in 2 Samuel 17:27 – 29, 19:31 – 40, and I Kings 2:7. His name means, “made of iron or strong.” Here is his story.

1. He was a man of courageous loyalty. King David had been driven from his throne by his own son, Absalom, and sorely needed support. Barzillai rallied to his side, remaining his friend in what is considered by many, the worst hour of David’s life. Two things to remember: David had brought this heartache on himself, due to his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. Second, friendship towards David meant certain execution, if Absalom prevailed. Yet, according to 2 Samuel 17:27 – 29, Barzillai brought necessary provisions to the hungry, thirsty followers of David. Someone has correctly observed, “In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends.”

2. He was a man of unconditional brotherly love. A noted Christian psychologist stated, “In my professional practice, I find that the loneliest people – those with the greatest longings to be touched – are those without at least one close friend. It’s surprising how many people there are like that.” Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The Pulpit Commentary states, “Misfortunes, says our maxim, is the touchstone of friendship.” Another commentator says, “At all times a friend loves, but in adversity he is born (i.e. becomes) a brother.” Matthew Henry wrote, “Swallow friends, that fly to you in summer, but are gone in winter, such friends there is no loss of.” Although David was unpopular, Barzillai knew the soul of David, and that he was a man after God’s own heart. To him, David was still godly, although a fugitive, and his great, loving heart bled for the king. Henry Durbanville made this observation about friendship: “ A friend is the first person to come in when the whole world goes out.”

3. He was a man of influence and benevolence. He is described as a great man, with a noble seat at Rogelim. Twice he assisted David. First, when he fled from Absalom and second, when he was returning home to his throne. 2 Samuel 19:31, “And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim and went across the Jordan with the king, to escort him across the Jordan.” He did not squander his wealth on idle pleasures, nor hoard it for selfish ends. His position, prestige and purse were beneficially used for others. Helen Keller once said, “With the death of every friend I love…a part of me has been buried…but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world.”

4. He was a man of humility. He was invited by David to go to Jerusalem with him to live the rest of his days, yet refused to be rewarded, 2 Samuel 19:33 – 38. He felt his services were trivial and unworthy of any recompense from David. An Arab proverb states, “A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

5. He was a man of lasting example. Some of King David’s last words to his son Solomon were, “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother.” Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”

As the train left Victoria Station in London, a trembling man suddenly rolled off his seat and had a seizure. His friend reached down, pulled him up, and wrapped a coat over him. The shaking stopped. The friend said to the other passengers, “Please forgive us. We were in Vietnam together. He’s an Englishman and I’m an American. We were wounded and I lost my leg. My friend had half his chest blown away by a grenade, but he got up, grabbed me by my shirt, and began dragging me to safety. Every step he took, he screamed with pain. I told him to let me go, or we’d both die. He said, ‘Billy, if you die, I’m going to die with you!’ He got us out of the jungle. When I learned he had epilepsy, I came here to take care of him. After what he did for me, there isn’t anything I would not do for him.”

“No one could tell me where my soul might be;

I sought for God, but God eluded me;

I sought my brother out and found all three.”

As John Wesley said, “A man must have friends or make friends; for no one ever went to heaven alone.” May God give us the heart of Barzillai.

Dave Arnold, Pastor

Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Ironic Swallow

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
(Matthew 23:24 – NIV)

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). Ironic.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Moral Evolution?

Do you suppose, O man – that you will escape the judgment of God?
(Romans 2:3 – ESV)

There have been recent studies that have “proven” that some children are “born to be bad”. Of course as Christians we know that all men are born bad. Biblically based Christians are not surprised at the depths of the depravity of man.

The rest of society, however, doesn’t get it. When some astronaut or high-ranking person of society goes bad they act surprised because they think we can educate that out of people.

My question to them is this: Do you believe that we will evolve out of our sinful nature, or predilections, as you might want to call them? Not just what I might call sin or evil, but what you would, something like murder, etc.? Or are there any items that aren't up for grabs?

I am genuinely curious. Do you believe we are getting better? Not just on the social, no-slavery, women's rights, etc., etc., kind of thing, but are we getting better with what is in our hearts? How about with greed, lust, anger, etc.? Maybe those aren't "sins" in your book, well then what is? And are we going to evolve out of those things? If not, what then of evolution, simply Nietzsche’s "will to power", you know, “might makes right”?

It is a great irony that after the bloodiest century in history there are people who deny the existence of evil and there are still people who believe that human beings are basically good, and just need education, not salvation. They believe and propagate the false idea that we don’t need a salvation to save us from our inner corruption; we need education to arouse our inner goodness. Even many churches today have this mindset.

However, God’s restraining grace is the only thing preserving anything of the honor and decency in our world. Man left to himself can never climb his way out of his own heart. He will sink into to the depths of his own depravity, unless God in His common grace restrains him, and until God in His saving grace rescues him. We will not morally evolve and we will not educate ourselves out of our depravity.

Is this greatly educated society of America becoming more moral? Now education is not the enemy in itself, no. We think education is good, yes, it is, but education cannot save us, just the same as God is not as interested in your savings account, as He is your soul. Education and upward mobility are not and cannot be the answer. Salvation is the answer. We need the right education (Romans 12:2 / Ephesians 4:23).

The wrath of God, leaving us to ourselves, is a present matter, it is ongoing – it is being revealed and will continue to be revealed in greater measure (Colossians 3:5-6 / Ephesians 5:6). God gives us up to our own lusts, in accordance with our depraved nature (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Now, looking back we see what they did and are doing, but now it is also you. This means you. Paul is restating and further clarifying his thoughts about men and their need, all men and their need, because they are all guilty, they are all without excuse, they are all damned and doomed without God. All have forgotten God, and none come to God unless He will come to them. Praise His name He has done so though Jesus Christ, and that is the point he is trying to make, that we are all under the just wrath of God, but that God will also reveal more than just wrath, but His righteousness, by saving some through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, and thereby revealing God’s own righteousness, over and opposed to man’s unrighteousness.

You may not do these bad things as much as the other guy or as much as you used to but you have done some of them or all of them once or occasionally, and a miss is as good as a mile (James 2:10). Going even further, really, it is not so much that you do the identical actions, but that your conduct is the same, i.e., you sin against light; against the knowledge of God you have turned this into idols.

You are not perfect, you are not righteous, and you are not a qualified judge. The standard is perfection, the righteousness of God. That is how the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel; it is against the backdrop of the depravity of man. Yes some men are worse than others in a sense but all are worse than God, and that is the point that Paul is making. Those whom judge others without looking at themselves first have done some of the same things; they are just as in need of a savior as those who never do anything but bad things. It isn’t a matter of degree, it is a matter of having done any of these things at all, and all have, and so all are without excuse.

This all shows us our need for the gospel, which is this; the righteousness He demands from us He freely gives to us. Romans 1:16-17 says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. This is why Christianity is good news. It is God providing for us in Christ what we can never provide for ourselves, namely, a righteousness good enough to have God's favor. God will give it to us freely if we will stop depending on self and start trusting in Him.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No Way Noah

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
(Psalm 33:6 – ESV)

It is offered as a refutation of the Bible that all the biological diversity of the earth today could not have happened coming from the relatively few species able to be on Noah’s Ark. That simply isn’t rational, we are told. At first blush it may seem as if this really is a strong argument. I mean, there are all sorts of creatures we are still discovering, and hundreds and thousands of types of animals today, aren’t there? And take the fact that you have to divide the space on the Ark by at least two, because there had to be a male and female taken on the Ark, and some of them were taken in by sevens, so wow, how could all of this come from all of that? Indeed, it seems to be a most perplexing question.

Well, if that is the rationale against the Biblical record, and if that is such a problem, then I have another question. If so much couldn’t come from so few, then how did all the biological diversity of the earth come from the first species, or from some singular primordial goo? How can so much come from almost none? How did one animal give way to hundreds, thousands, etc.? Considering the original argument, if it is so impossible for it to happen with the animals on the Ark, how then of less?

Now, if the God of Creation could create something from nothing, then the Ark event is not so hard to imagine. Yes, we realize that our explanation of this would probably be unsatisfactory to a skeptical person looking to “disprove” the Bible. Of course we cannot prove that the universe was made out of nothing, by the decree of God, but it is reasonable, rational, and it accounts for what we have in the world. And when we start by looking at the human condition, and what the Bible says about it, this provides further evidence that what has been revealed to us in the Scriptures is indeed true.

Science is not a bad thing; we have depended on its advancement for many of our modern ways. But what can science tell us about sin, what advancement can it make over what the Bible reveals as our human condition, and what can it provide as a superior solution to sin than Jesus? So you may not believe in Noah’s Ark, but do you believe in the Cross of Christ?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Don’t Deny It

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…
(James 5:17a – ESV)

As we first begin to age into adolescence, we begin to see the world through looking at others, and not simply from our own view. As this happens, we often find ourselves looking at heroes, and how we love to have them inspire us. Inevitably, as we reach a greater maturity, we find out they had feet of clay, they had flaws, as do all people, greater and lesser.

Yet this fact should not discourage us all that much. Their failures do not change the great things they did; it only makes the fact that they were able to do them more appreciable. Instead of wondering how they could do such great things while being so inconsistent, marvel at the wonder that God was able to use them to do such great things in spite of themselves.

To deny the complexity of men is to deny the human condition. To deny the achievements of a man because of his flaws is to deny the very power of God that shines through them.

Instead of looking to men as our ultimate example, let us look at God’s light through men to see its source, our ultimate example, Jesus Christ, who is able shine His radiant light through our dark humanity.

Don’t deny our Lord His glory.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 21, 2008

Time to Move On

And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
(Acts 18:6 – ESV)

There comes a time to move on. If you are witnessing, or defending the faith, you have an obligation to proclaim Christ and your allegiance to Him. You want to do so in a winsome way, but God has ordained some to destruction, and so some will not be won. We don’t decide who those are, and so we try and persuade every man, in a sense. However, we are not public relations agents for God, and we do not water down the truth of the gospel to make it more palatable to those whom speak with, some will not come anyway.

We have no right to be obnoxious, but indeed, there comes a time to move on, as the Apostle Paul did. You show them that you believe the Bible; they show why they do not. You try and answer questions, give evidence, and they are unsatisfied and become more disgusted. You proclaim Christ, and it enrages them, and they revile you. You mustn’t leave too soon, but eventually it is time to say, “Okay, you have heard what we consider Truth, and we will not be moved, and you have given us reasons why you don’t believe, and you will not be moved. I have proclaimed Christ and His salvation to you, I pray that one day He might bring you to Himself, but for now I am moving on.”

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday Sermon: Prayer in Passing

Psalm 90:12-17

And so we begin a New Year, and I want to start this New Year by going back and looking at something old. The book of Psalms, so rich with worship and good theology, is arranged into five books: book one – Psalm 1-41 / book two – Psalm 42-72 / book three – Psalm 73-89 / book four – Psalm 90-106 / book five – Psalm 107-150. So Psalm 90 is the start of book 4, but the books are not in chronological order. This is actually the oldest of the 150 Psalms, written by Moses, either at end of the 40 years in the wilderness, or perhaps even earlier, when Moses was in the wilderness, awaiting his return to Egypt to deliver the Jews. Psalm 90 is unique, in that that it is the only psalm attributed to Moses, and as such it makes a unique contribution in what it tells us about Moses himself, something we do not see anywhere else.

Many believe the background is from the sin of Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 13-14). The unbelief of the ten spies and the people was a rebellion against God, Moses and Aaron. The Exodus generation, except all those under 20 and Joshua and Caleb, would die in the wilderness. This meant Moses had to see about 1 ¼ million people die during those 38-40 years, or about 87 deaths per day. After seeing a whole generation die away, including his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, this is the context Moses writes from. His prayer is for God’s work to continue on and that people would see it and be blessed despite the fact that Moses himself will not see it. He had made what might seem like one little mistake (Numbers 20:8-12) but he still wrote this prayer as it being good for the work to carry on. If anyone back then knew how to pray it was Moses, so lets pay attention to what and how he prays. Moses was saying this prayer even as his life was passing. We as Christians are also just passing through and this should be our prayer in passing. The time on this earth is passing away, and we need to pass our time in prayer.

Now some theologians, scholars and pastors believe that this wasn’t written in the wilderness, after the Exodus, but before the Exodus, when Moses was in the wilderness for 40 years before he went back to Egypt to deliver the Jews. Even if this is so, it still brings us to see Moses and his anguish of soul. To see and know of all his people who were in the bitter bondage of slavery, you can imagine what it must have been like for Him to know he had been a part of the Egyptian people who were persecuting the Jews, and now he had to wait to go and bring them out. Perhaps Moses wrote this near the end of the forty years, and so having endured all those years of grief, God sent him back to Egypt, back to his people, not the Egyptians, but his true people, the Jews, and then deliver them, back to the wilderness, and into the promised land.

How this is represented with godly men who shepherd the flock of God today. How we anguish in our soul to see so many in the bitter bondage to the slavery of sin. And how even more so when we see people who have been delivered by such a great deliverance, mightier than the Exodus, and yet they wander around their own self made wilderness, never entering into the promised land, the rest that God has for them in Christ. They have seen His hand of deliverance, they have worshipped Him as He has taught them, and they see His presence like a cloud by day and a fire by night, yet they don’t believe they can move on to conquer the foes who are in front of them, they think they cannot defeat the giants. They have seen so much they have to see it to believe it, that everything must be in place before they can move. They don’t realize that, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31). Christ has defeated sin, hell, and death, and in Him we can defeat anything that would keep us from crossing the Jordan, from entering into all God has for us, both now and for eternity.

Our sin has held us back, and it all stems from the sin of unbelief. This is not the day or the year or the time for unbelief to stop us. This is a time to believe that God has delivered us from sin, death, and hell. He is delivering us from our sinful flesh and enabling us to redeem the time we have on earth. And He will deliver us all the way home to heaven, to a place where we will have been delivered from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and even the very presence of sin for all eternity. Our promised land is the joy of Jesus Christ forever!

Here is a very brief outline of Psalm 90, with our focus today being verses 12-17.

Verses 1-6 – the transitory nature of man contrasted with the eternal nature of God

Verses 7-12 – reason for transitory nature, which is sin

Verses 13-17 – prayer to build upon and magnify His eternity through their mortality

This sermon today is going to be an interactive venture; we are all going to pray these things as we go through and discuss them. Corporate Prayer is a theme I want to stress this next year.

I pray I learn to count the days / I pray you will make the days count
Teach me to number them (teach me to be efficient)
I ask you to magnify and multiply them (help me be effective)

Vs.12 – people
So, IOW, the perplexities of verses 1-11 lead to this lesson
Verse 12 is the lesson of Kadesh-Barnea (or prayer that they make the most of their journey)

Make the most out the opportunities you have, don’t waste time, but not necessarily about being busy, but about doing God’s will with all of our time.

Teach me to count the days that you may make my days (life) count. The way you are productive may change, it will change, but we need to do what we can when we can.

Vs.13 – presence (Psalm 6:3 – how long)
Revival / Deliverance / Mercy

Vs.14 – promptness
In the morning means do it soon and we will be happy
External (rejoice) and internal (and be glad) joy – all our days

Vs.15 – proportionate
400 years of slavery / 40 years of testing and torment, not based on merit but mercy
Out of Egypt / Out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land
Plural and perhaps it wouldn’t include Moses but his people yet to be born

Vs.16 – providence and prolonging, progress (the work of God among them)
Prayer that God would reveal His power and presence among them. Like Paul’s prayer as pastor’s pulse (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5), we pray that the work would carry on, with encouragement and experience, that people would see His working on and in us and glorify God. That we would see God working in our lives and our children would recognize God at work.

Vs.17 – prosperity – Establishment – An illustration of grace and redemption
(Beauty) (vs.16) (Blessing) (vs.17) – The work of God (vs.16) through the work of man (vs.17) – Let them see your beauty through our blessing – Repeated for emphasis

Pray for grace to help us so that His glory would show forth from us (Matthew 5:16 / Philippians 2:15), that we would see God work and they would see God’s work. Father let Jesus shine upon us and then shine through us. Lord do it so that others can see you did it, this is for your Glory. This prayer is not about what you can get out of Him, but what He can get out of you; this is a prayer for God to get the most out of me.

This is a prayer that we may act in accordance with His character. We pray that we not sin against Him but be an instrument for Him. This life will soon be past only what is done for the Lord will last. Father, let us see the beauty of Christ and live in the power of Christ so that we, with our lives, in word and in deed, may show the beauty and power of Christ. This is our prayer.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 18, 2008

Structural Integrity

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
(Matthew 7:25 – ESV)

Structural integrity refers to the ability of a structure to function as designed and required. God’s design for marriage is that it would enable married couples to withstand the storms of life together. The covenant of marriage is designed to give married couples a shelter from the world, the flesh, and the devil, which are trying to destroy what God is demonstrating by a man and a woman becoming one flesh.

I have said many times that a good marriage is not a finished product, but a building process. A solid building begins width a strong foundation – the part of the structure that is underground. The foundation's job is to make sure the soil under the building can support the load of the building and its contents. The best material for supporting the weight is solid rock or bedrock. Bedrock is good at resisting the force of compression created by the weight of the building pushing down. In other words, the rock holds its shape under the force. The result is that a building built upon bedrock won't sink. A marriage undergirded by Christ the solid rock won’t sink when the pressures of life are weighing it down. It is free to grow amidst the pressure.

As the marriage building grows it faces another challenge. Tall buildings must also be able to sway in the wind. If they didn't, the wind would literally push them over. A good marriage is like that; as it is growing it needs a little give for the times when the winds kick up.

I don’t want a perfect marriage. It is not only unrealistic, it would be wrong. Yes wrong. I don’t want a perfect marriage, what I want is a mature marriage, complete with failure, frustration, fussing and futility, because these can help make for fruitfulness. If there are never any problems, and all the confrontation or negative things are simply avoided, then there is no template for when trouble comes. The storms of life are inevitable. A couple must learn to lean on each other in trust.

No, a perfect marriage doesn’t have any real structural integrity because it is too stiff, and whenever a strong wind comes along it isn’t able to withstand the assault. If the foundation isn’t solid, the building will sink. If there is no give the building will topple over. But as Christ continues to be the foundation, and there is a little give built-in as it grows, the marriage will have structural integrity.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How Could He?

Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword
(Joshua 6:21 – ESV)

It is often misunderstood as to why God had ordered the Jews to kill all the inhabitants of Jericho and certain other people they were warring against. It happened more than once. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey'" (1 Samuel 15:3). These slaughters are often used as an objection against Christianity, or at least against the “Old Testament God”. If one is not careful it can seem like a good argument. Many Christians I have known have not known how to answer this accusation. How can God be so good when He ordered His people to slaughter innocent babies? If He is loving and righteous, how could He?

Well, lets look at this from a different perspective, a more complete understanding. First of all, this wasn’t always the case. Also, have you ever considered that God also allowed most of His own people to die in the wilderness, before they entered the Promised Land? God was against rebellion and unrighteousness, and meted out punishment against His own people, before they ever crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. More than 1 million souls that didn’t believe they could take the land, because of the giants (Numbers 13-14), died in the wilderness, save those under 20 years of age, and Joshua and Caleb, who believed in God’s promise.

Now the people of Canaan, like the Amalekites and others, were guilty of abominable sin and had filled up the cup of God’s wrath already, so it wasn’t like they were innocent. But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Perhaps by having children killed, God was sparing them worse punishment than they would have had if they had grown to maturity and committed more injustice and gross rebellion. Even so, before we can ask, “how could He” about the Canaanites, how about His own people? God allowed all those deaths in the wilderness.

Why does God order the annihilation of entire nations in the first place? Some were peoples who possessed the Promised Land, which God gave to Israel. The primary reason stated above is that these peoples are exceedingly wicked. If they are not totally wiped out, they will teach the Jews their sinful ways and thus bring them under divine condemnation. God was against rebellion, and was preserving the birth line of the coming Messiah, both by filtering the Jews, and the killing of the others.

That may seem like a wholly unsatisfactory answer to you. However, consider this: this slice of redemptive history must be looked at within the overall context of God’s plan. And that plan included pouring out His wrath upon His own Son to pay for our sins. So before you can ask about the Canaanites, and the Jews before them, how about the fact that God poured out His wrath upon the sinless Son of God?

Love must be seen in its full context. If you had a child learning to ride a bike, and you were that day going to remove the training wheels, you would realize that they might fall, and skin their knees. They would be hurt, and would be very angry with you. However, you know that in the long run it was good for them. You knew the big picture. They might be mad for a while, perhaps a long while, but when they learned to ride that bike they would be glad you helped them learn how.

God gives us the big picture of redemption, and all we have to do is look at the cross to see that God is vitally concerned about punishing sin. Yet he allowed His own Son to pay for that sin because He is also vitally concerned about demonstrating His love. So instead of looking at only those early moments in redemptive history, be sure to look to the climax of it, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, dying on a cross to reconcile you to a loving God.

So there is an answer to, “How could He?” It is because He loved us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rising to Truth

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.
(Micah 7:8-9 – ESV)

When we mess up real bad, and we lack an assurance of our salvation, we need to focus on the more complete truth, which includes the primacy of Christ’s sacrifice for the payment of our sins. The current truth is that you are guilty, you have sinned, but the ongoing truth, the complete truth is that you are also forgiven, and that you will rise up again. You may feel His righteous chastisement, but He will always bring you back into His loving arms once again. Indeed, because He chastises you, this is the indication that you never left. Repent, and be restored to the joy of God’s salvation with a blessed assurance.

Of course, our sin is personal and we cannot simply expect theological ramblings to help us if they remain cold, sterile, and impersonal. These things must be lived out in community. Often what we need is to do a better job modeling brokenness and forgiveness in church. Somehow, we don't trust grace; we think we need to shame people into repentance first. I disagree with that. God's way is love; we draw people to repentance by showing them how much more beautiful life is when we are free from sin and free to love.

We think freedom from sin means an absence of desire, but it doesn’t. What it does mean is that I am free to not sin, not that I am never going to have sinful desires. I have a choice; I can enter in, or fall back into sin. Our flesh is not cured by God it is killed by God, and we live that out by faith. We are able to rise up again. Whatever the issues may be, the single issue has been forever settled in your favor. Rise up to Him in faith.

When you are able to see this beautiful truth of the gospel more and more clearly you will sin less and less, because Christ will become more and more what you treasure. We have this great treasure and a down payment in our lowly bodies, these jars of clay hold the power of God. We have nothing of ourselves to boast about, but we can always be boasting of the cross, what God has done for us in Christ. That is something worth being thankful for. It is the reason we come to church, and why we can rejoice in Christ with one another. It means that I can believe in God and I can believe in you because you believe in God. We are justified by faith, and we can live by that same faith. Amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Special Delivery

…Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
(1 Thessalonians 1:10b – ESV)

Notice that in this verse it says that Jesus delivers us (present tense), from the wrath to come (future). This is primarily eschatological language; Paul is referring specifically to the future wrath of the Tribulation period and the horrors of hell.

Now if this is so we may ask why the use of different tenses? The reason is that we are always being saved from God’s wrath (John 3:36 / Romans 1:18 / 2 Corinthians 1:10). The Thessalonian believers and Christians today will escape all aspects of God’s wrath, general and specific. Jesus is our deliverer always. The truth is that we always need mercy and we always need grace. It is also true that God is bringing it to us, right now, and forevermore.

Your situation may seem hopeless, and you may feel helpless, but hope springs eternal, and help is on the way. Nothing will stop Jesus from delivering you right on time to the front door of your mansion in heaven. There may be bumps in the road, but no obstacle in our destiny can stop us from the end of our destined path. You can put up with anything as long as you know help is on the way, that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you know it will soon be over because deliverance is your destination.

This is the word to you today, are you receiving it, do you believe you are being delivered even though you are down and out right now, do you believe you need to be delivered even though you are high and dry right now? Receive the word of your deliverance. Receive the word of your salvation. Receive the word of Jesus Christ today (Isaiah 40:8). The word is still going out, it is still being received, and it still brings hope. Jesus Christ is still saving souls, and still delivering us from sin, death, and hell. The mission continues.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 14, 2008

Power Source

...according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
(Ephesians 1:19b-20 – ESV)

Paul now describes the power the he prays we are able to know. The power is of the same essence as that which raised Jesus from the dead, and this is the kind of power God is working in us that believe. Do you believe it? Pray that you can see it! God energized this, showed its power; He demonstrated it by raising Christ from the dead. This same power is available now, to raise the drunkard from his drink, to raise the thief from their thievery, to raise the Pharisee from his self-righteousness, to raise the head of those who are held captive, to raise the spirits of those who are downtrodden and lonely, to raise you from that pit of sin and self, and to raise the dead in sin to be born again.

The power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead can create a new life for you, giving you true safety, satisfaction, and rest, the promises of Ephesians 1:3-14. It is a life that glorifies God by raising you from the spiritually dead. Be made alive today. If you are born again but you are so down you feel dead, be energized to see God’s power today.

Continuing on into verse 21-23, we see that Christ was filled with all authority and power, and He fills His church. Jesus is pouring Himself into His church, and we are growing into His fullness. This is where the enlightening happens, this is where Paul was praying for it, to the church at Ephesus, as a group, not simply to the individuals but to them, so that they all might see some of the beauty and together share that beauty.

This letter was a circular letter; it was to travel to all the local churches. You see, in this life we cannot as individuals behold all the beauty that is Christ, but together we can see Him reflected in a multifaceted way, understanding more of Him than we would be able to do otherwise. You would have a hard time convincing the Apostle Paul that you are plugged into the power source if you aren't plugged into a local church.

The church is His Body which He fills as He see fit, in many varied ways and means and we are stewards of that (1 Peter 4:10) and when we see that we will see what Paul was praying for and what God wants for us in Christ, it will all finally click, because we will see all the pieces finally come together. His body, the church, is what He fills. This is perhaps the strongest motivator as to why you HAVE to go to church, because if you don’t you won’t, see it that is. It CAN happen, it can all finally come together for you, as you help it come together for others. We can spread grace instead of trying to hoard it.

Pray that you might be able to see something of the light of Christ in other believers today, and every day. Pray for those that won’t come to church, that think the people there are the furthest thing from Christ, when Paul is making it clear that it is they who are far away, as Christ is filling His church with His light. You say “but, but, but, but, but, what about this or that situation, or person, or that church who hurt me” or whatever? Well let me tell you that is the devil that is doing that to us. Think about it; Satan has us all separating and now is not the time for that! We need to be a unified witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The ones outside are in the darkroom but they aren’t being developed, pray that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened.

I pray you become enlightened today, and may it ever be so and ever be increasing. Paul wanted them to see something because he wanted them to be something. You need to see more light to be more of a light. From the simplicity of childhood to growing deeper as we grow older, as we mature in the love of Christ, we have much to look forward to as Christ becomes more and more beautiful to us even as the things of the world become less and less satisfying. We can go from knowing it in the general sense to where you are realizing it in every sense, every situation, every circumstance, every facet of life, you increasingly see and you’ll increasingly be. That was Paul’s prayer, and that is my prayer, for me, for you, for us, for God’s glory.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Spotlight - Transforming Sermons

When discussing blogs, there are lots of great Christian sites, and you can find one that caters to just about any pertinent issue or niche you are looking for. However, there are some sites that you just have to go to every day. They save time, effort, and allow you to focus on what you are looking for from many angles.

Now, as I usually say when I do a "spotlight" post, let me get real and personal with you. I think my site is great for devotional and doctrinal material, it is intended as my pastoral outreach and overflow, a labor of love. But this site doesn’t always hit all the topics (though it some times does) as they are coming down the pike. That is not what our primary focus is here; it is biblical exposition and commentary, hopefully accurate and insightful at that. Now some sites do give the news, and they are known for it, and they may even be seen as negative, but I am glad they are out there.

Still, one site that I visit every day gives you many different pastoral perspectives, all Christian of course, and certainly Biblical and/or conservative. This site gives you some the best of the pastoral blogging: covering biblical exposition, hermeneutics, homiletics, types of sermons, motivation, personal life, study habits and techiniques, you name it, this site will cover it from just about every angle. It is a must resource fro the blogging pastor. Where can you find all this treasure wrapped up in one place?

The Answer: Transforming Sermons

Milton Stanley takes the time and effort to help all of us bloggers out there with this truly wonderful site. I absolutely love this site, and I can't recommend it enough. Do yourself a big favor, go see what I am talking about, and bookmark the site, you won’t regret it. Transforming Sermons, the spotlight is on you…

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 11, 2008

Power Surge

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,
(Ephesians 1:17-19a – ESV)

Paul saw that they were holding the faith in truth, and that they loved others out of a love for Christ. He knows that they will want and need an increase in faith, so as to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of God. We give thanks for what we see and know of Jesus now, and we pray for others to get a further revelation of Him within the context of daily life. As a pastor I not only preach to you, I pray for you. Are you praying for those you are witnessing to?

Paul prayed that God would shed more light, illuminating the beauty of Christ. Not some spooky magical supposedly spiritual power tool, but a more thorough, working knowledge of Christ. It is practical, and yes mystical, but a living knowledge of our living Lord. From the soul, the center, the very core of our being becoming enlightened. It is a spirit of it, a process of understanding. The illumination is given but then this is developed throughout our lifetimes. We are strengthened, not so much like boosters that put us to the next level, but the Spirit is working with us in our situations and they coalesce together to form a more perfect understanding.

Revelation – it is coming to us more and more. Wisdom – we are realizing what it means and what to do with it. Wisdom and revelation as to who He really is what He is really like, which helps us to live, to witness, to minister, to encourage and to discern. As you are more and more in the light the difference will become more and more pronounced to others, the more His light will shine through you.

It is for this reason (what God has done and what they were doing) (vs.15) he prayed (vs.16) for this thing (enlightenment, wisdom and revelation about Christ) (vs.17) for this reason (to know the hope, riches, and power) (vs.18). Paul prays for the light to come on, to full power, and that we would then be able to ascertain, to know, it would come on our radar screen. When the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the heart, one will be able to see all these great truths. Not that we could see it as just as mere words, but that we could actually see it with our spiritual eyes, and it might become a reality. The life of Christ and the hope of heaven brought to bear on this life.

As we understand the hope it gives rise to more faith and the light of Christ we are seeing will be reflected to others. When the lights go up we see the hope of our calling, and we see the riches of the glorious inheritance, in the saints. You see, our riches are in God, and God’s riches are in His saints. We see the power, we live for His glory and He is glorified in us. The prayer of Ephesians 1:17-19 is essentially a request that the promises of Ephesians 1:3-14, the safety, satisfaction, and rest become a reality in the lives of the Ephesians.

Paul is praying for three things. Paul was praying that they would know, that they would begin to understand and to grow, in not only the hope, and not only the riches of the glorious inheritance waiting for them in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5), but also in His mighty power to them in this life (1 Timothy 4:8). Our hope for heaven, His riches poured out in us, and the power to get it all done, the power to see Jesus more clearly and become more like Him now! Paul is praying that you would be so enlightened that you might shine for the glory of God and become one of the jewels in Jesus’ crown! Paul wants this to start happening now, and this will reach its zenith with His second coming (2 Thessalonians 1:10). I pray for the power surge to illuminate you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Light Bulbs

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
(Ephesians 1:15-16 – ESV)

Have you ever had that experience where something just clicks, you finally get it, you know, the light comes on, that little light bulb over your head shows up? It is as if you have been thinking about or studying something but then you finally learn it. It is like you found the secret, like you find that missing piece of the puzzle, you figure something out, find where the leak is, finally realize how something works, finally understand what someone is trying to say, finally get what the teacher is looking for on the test, finally understand why your spouse is so upset, finally get the big picture, or the fine detail of something you have been struggling with or didn’t even realize you needed till the answer came. You finally learn to overcome something. You finally see the answer after all this time. You finally understand how or why.

Or you see it happen to someone else, you have been trying to tell them something for years and they finally get the message, they finally learn how it is done, your children finally get motivated, a couple finally reconciles their past problems, your friend finally comes to Christ. They finally get it.

That is one of the greatest feelings in the world isn’t it? It is wonderful and it does happen to everyone at some point in their lives, and we all wish it would happen more often. There is no one in the world who isn’t wanting and waiting for this to happen at some level, with some problem, with some relationship, with some difficult thing they have been trying to do or to see happen. No one is exempt from this, the need for something to finally click, to come together, to make sense, finally. My prayer is that this might happen in some way to all of us today.

You see, the Bible is no stranger to this phenomenon, in fact the Apostle Paul knew that we all needed this to happen in our walks with God if we were ever really going to “get it” and get going on the path instead of just sitting there. This is what he was praying about in Ephesians 1:15-23. He wanted the lights to come on for them.

How many times have you read something in the Bible over and over, and then one day, wham, it finally clicks? Or you see something in your daily life that makes the scripture or a biblical concept come alive with fresh meaning? It is a powerful experience, isn’t it? By the grace of God I pray you will be able to see some things today, finally. To have our hearts set ablaze, the eyes of our understanding enlightened, to make it real in practice, to have it click. Today might be the day that it all clicks for you. That was Paul’s prayer, and my prayer for all of us today, believers, unbelievers, and even make believers.

Looking at the context, Paul was praying because they were in Christ and sealed by His Spirit, because they were faithful to God and loving of one another, and because God had done something and they had responded and done something. This isn’t for people who are not Christians, they do not have the significance, the sufficiency and the security of Christ, but they can if they want it. Faith and love do not earn us participation in this great work of God. They are evidence of our participation in God’s plan. In light of the ultimate plan of God that Paul had proclaimed in verses Ephesians 1:1-14, in light of that he prays for more light for right now. He’s praying that they would see something, that they would see Christ in an even greater and increasing light. It is something so important yet so simple we might forget it. Have you prayed for the lights to come on?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Word Picture

...the glory of Christ, who is the image of God
(2 Corinthians 4:4 – ESV)

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we are told that those who are beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory. And we are told that this change is by the Spirit of the Lord. We were made in the image of God, but that image was marred by the fall of man into sin. Now when we are born again, we begin to be transformed into Christ’s image. As we behold Him, the Spirit of the Lord changes us. The question is, how do we “behold” Him?

In this passage and our text above, the word image is “icon”, or picture, figure, representation. There are some churches that believe in having pictures that depict biblical persons or scenes and relics and such. They say they don’t worship them but they venerate, or revere them. I’m not so sure about all that, but in any event, that isn’t what the Apostle Paul means when he says we are to behold Christ.

We don’t become more like Jesus by looking at pictures we made, but by looking at the picture God has drawn, the “Word” Picture. The most beautiful pictures made by man can capture a sense of but not the substance of the real thing. However, God through the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us something of the substance of His Son in the words of scripture. In the bible we see Christ as He is, not in fullness but in truth. It is untainted by conception and aided by divine revelation.

Those things we think bring us closer to God, like a beautiful sunset, inspiring music, a thoughtful story, etc., are wonderful, and they serve a useful purpose, but the beauty of these things is only a shadow. They do not mediate the revelation of God to us or invoke the presence of God among us (1 Timothy 2:5). If those things inspire us to pray and give thanks to God for His creation and His common grace, then well. If we think those things bring special revelation of the saving kind, or that they are a ticket to the throne room, then we are in big trouble.

We are to come boldly before the throne of God by our prayers, not by our pictures (Hebrews 4:16). When James tells us to “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you ”, (James 4:8 – ESV) he means through the bible, prayer, and resisting Satan, not by looking at some artists conception, or by some means of grace not found in the Word.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Power of Praise?

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
(2 Chronicles 20:22 – ESV)

Many people talk of or teach on the power of praise. They often use this passage from 2 Chronicles to “prove” their point. Now there may be a power of praise, but is this really what this passage is teaching us? Lets look at the context by giving a short synopsis of what was going on.

2 Chronicles 20:1-2 – The land was under invasion from several enemies.
2 Chronicles 20:3-13 – Jehoshaphat & the people seek God by fasting and prayer.
2 Chronicles 20:14-17 – They receive the promise of victory by prophecy.
2 Chronicles 20:18-19 – The people fell down in worship, the priests rose up and praised God.
2 Chronicles 20:20-25 – The king rallies everyone, appoints singers to go before the army, and as they praise God the enemies are overthrown, and the spoil is abundant.
2 Chronicles 20:26-30 – They give thanks for the deliverance and for the blessings, they return to Jerusalem with music, and there is peace.

Now there is no doubt that praise is a main element in this story. However, many look at verse 22 and think they see some secret power of praise. Yet this victory was not about some power of praise it was about the power of God predicated upon the repentance we see beginning in 2 Chronicles 19:4, and continued with the prophecy of victory and the people’s worship. It was not because they began to sing and praise but at the same time that they began to sing and praise. They turned to the Lord in repentance, and then they received word that God was going to deliver them, and they praised as God did His deliverance. It wasn’t that they’d never thought of praise, and that then God gave them some revelation about praise warfare, and that now we can all enjoy the blessing of that. It is not as if praise is the answer to all our problems.

No, this wasn’t a revelation of praise warfare, as if we can just sing our way out of sin, without any reference to or regard for repentance from sin. This wasn’t some magic formula given that we now apply universally to all our situations. Indeed, praise is a weapon of sorts, it is definitely part of the process, but it must be the outflow of an understanding of grace, and a natural consequence of having turned to the Lord in repentance. Otherwise praise IS NOT the answer to all your problems, and you cannot simply sing your way out of sin.

They turned to the Lord in repentance, and then they received the message, and the message was about the fact God was going to deliver them, not about how praise was going to deliver them. The message God may give to you may be of a different sort, but then we praise as an outcome of that. We must also turn to the Lord in repentance first, and then receive the message of victory the Bible declares, and then we can praise as God does His work. The thing to notice in this passage is not that praise won them the victory but that they turned to God and praised because He was going to deliver them. They didn’t praise to get something, they praised because they had already been promised it and were in the midst of getting it.

This doesn’t mean we look for some obscure promise in the Bible, and then if we want it we can “activate” it by praising God for it. No, this is simply a moment in the grand scheme, a slice of redemptive history. The lesson for us is that we should turn to God when we are surrounded by enemies, which spiritually speaking, is always. The world, the flesh, and the devil are always on the offensive against us. Then when God gives us a victory, we should praise His name. The power of praise is about recognizing the power of God. We should always be giving thanks to and praising God. We praise, not to get something, but because He is something.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Wise In Our Own Eyes

Claiming to be wise, they became fools…
(Romans 1:22 – ESV)

In this verse, Paul was speaking of mankind in general, that they thought they were wise. The lovers of wisdom, the philosophers, only give their stamp of approval to the vain imaginings of the people. It is the same today with individuals. Everyone thinks they are wiser than everyone else when it comes to God; it is our nature. Let me explain that and futher define that. Each individual thinks that they are the final authority on where they are spiritually. It is the same for everyone on earth, from children to seniors; we all think we know when we can listen and when we can afford not to. Everyone considers his or her own self as the final authority. This is not wise (Proverbs 3:7).

Charles Spurgeon – If we doubt God’s Word about one thing, we shall have small confidence in it upon another thing. Sincere faith in God must treat all God’s Word alike; for the faith which accepts one word of God and rejects another is evidently not faith in God, but faith in our own judgment, faith in our own taste.

We may even know that we don’t know about God, but we will think we know better than someone else. Our foolishness is inbred and spread. Wisdom builds on itself and so does foolishness. We are either getting better or we are backsliding. It is a process, the kingdom of God (Mark 4:26-28) and the kingdom of darkness. You can’t store wisdom away and choose to use it when you need it, you must put it into practice. It is certainly not wise to stick your hand into a beehive: you may have this knowledge but you will get stung if you don’t use it.

Children think they can just pack away their parents wisdom into some safe harbor, which they won’t have to pay attention to until they think they need it. This is just like men have done with God; they kept the knowledge tucked away instead of letting it guide their lives. They thought themselves wise but in doing this they become foolish. Children do this same thing, they think they can have the wisdom without using it, but it is not wise to dismiss wisdom as something you can use when you want to and at others times not. No it must be applied or it is just vain and useless knowledge. To have it you must use it you either live it or you lose it (Mark 4:24-25).

There are three aspects of self-determination that remain after regeneration to hinder us:

Self-authorization ("if I believe it its true", in other words, don’t teach me) – we must overcome our own lordship and stop seeing ourselves as the final authority.

Self-completeness (the mask of "everything’s okay", in other words, don’t help me) – we must learn to humble ourselves and be vulnerable, accepting help and correction.

Self-preservation (self doesn’t want to lose the other two aspects, in other words, don’t ask me to change) – we must train our mind to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and realize that our flesh does not go quietly. There will be pain involved.

These stop our growth in trials, as we only want to grow as we see fit (self-completeness) or just (self-authorization), and we don’t want to accept what God is doing through others and through situations as being God working on us and in us (self-preservation).

When we are our own final authority, instead of measuring ourselves by the Word of God in truth (Psalm 139:23-24 / Psalm 19:12-14), we are only wise in our own eyes (Isaiah 5:21).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 04, 2008

Mission and Message

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead,
(1 Thessalonians 1:9-10a – ESV)

The message of Christianity, that Jesus Christ is God and that we are a redeemed people, a changed people, mere sojourners in this life, serving our Lord and looking toward and waiting for our heavenly destiny, these things seem to be out of fashion in the church today. It would seem as if it is all about right now, a better life, a better situation, and the kingdom of heaven come to earth, but without any suffering, without any changed life, without any real credible witness. The message of hope in heaven, which brings faith and love for today, falls on deaf ears today. It isn’t enough, we are told. But it always was back in Paul’s day, and in some places on earth, it still is enough.

The Christian life is about the power of endurance that stems from hope in Christ, and finding joy unspeakable and full of glory despite the troubles of this world, it is not about the joy of excitement or entertainment. We as Christians are to be living for today with an eye for tomorrow. It is about being convinced and living convincing lives. You may have received Jesus Christ as savior, but the mission of your life continues.

We are seeing a lack of fruit in Christians today, and a lack of fruitful ministry, evangelism, discipleship, hunger for biblical understanding and the knowledge of God, biblical holiness, and a lack of preachers who exposit the word of God. We settle for mere stories and are swept away by any and every fad that comes down the pike. We are trying any and every new method to bring forth fruit, but a strict focus on people and the “right now” to the exclusion of Christ and the hope for tomorrow isn’t what gets it done.

Of course there is a reason for this. If the bombs were dropping and people were dying and disease was spreading and pestilence, pollution and pilfering were proliferating and food and water were scarce and it was a crime to be a Christian, then hearing the message of “hold on I’m coming back to get you and you will see it was all worth it”, this message would be well received! It would be fresh and a comfort to hear it every week, every day, every moment it would be the one thing we would be able to cling to. Hebrews 13:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 and verses like it would be our call to each other as we would have no other choice but to hold fast.

As it is we can see that it is not that things are so bad that the message doesn’t resonate, it is that things are so relatively good that we become complacent to this news. We grow bored with hearing this same thing every week, we don’t want to wait, and we want something more, now. We are so spoiled, so used to getting or being able to get what we want, and not used to having things take us completely out of any comfort zone that we have gotten used to. We have settled in, and settled for a less than robust Christianity. Any honest look at the contemporary church, especially here in America, reveals that we haven’t handled out supposed success very well.

The truth is that we value something more when we need it to sustain us. That is why Job says God’s word is more valuable than bread and so does Jesus. Food will keep you alive on earth, but God will keep you alive for eternity. His eternal life needs to be our sustenance right now. Even if things are relatively well, when we continue to realize the horrors of sin and the beauty of Christ we will continue to cling to Him and to be purified and we can continue to be stoked into lives of living flame for our Lord. If not, God must send suffering and persecution our way to help the light of Christ to shine through. That is the case with the church today.

Prosperity and popularity are not what produce fruit in the church; they produce make believers who aren’t born again. Persecution does not stunt growth it stokes it. The fires of persecution cause the fire of the Spirit to fan into flame, it causes us to rely on Him more, and look to Christ, and it stirs us up to stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. No we aren’t supposed to pray for persecution but pray for those who are being persecuted, and pray to stay humble that we might remain useful in the stewardship of all the good graces God has bestowed upon us.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sound Off

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
(1 Thessalonians 1:8 – ESV)

The “word of the Lord” here is both subjective and objective, the Lord’s word that He gives to be preached and the word about Him. This word was sounding forth from the Thessalonians. Their lives spoke the testimony of God working. Your faith speaks even when you aren’t able to be there (Romans 1:8). You become the echo of God’s voice. Others see the truth and report it (Matthew 5:16). They see you burn and then they learn, they know you really believe what you say you believe. It is a manifest difference from the lives they lead.

How does the word of the Lord sound out from you? How does your faith sound out? Most want to see the word power in the previous verses and then use that thought to conjure up scenes of healing and miracles and exciting demonstrations. But look what Paul says the power was for, for pressing on despite persecution, for enduring with the enduring word. How does your faith sound out? Is it by carrying placards decrying sins that sinners cannot help but commit? Or does it sound out in sweet melody amidst a world of sorrow, including personal sorrow, yet bearing witness to the marvel of Jesus Christ risen again and living in your hearts?

Is your faith told in mere words or is it lived out in the world? Do people know it just by you saying it, or by their seeing it? Yes we should be saying it, but the only way they will hear it is if they are seeing it too. The life gives credibility to the words. Jesus said I am the Way the Truth and the Life, and the only way they will believe the truth is if they see the life. Do they see the Way in you? Do they see the Truth in you? Do they see the Life in you? Do they see the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ when they see you? Have you been born again?

When unbelievers whom God is calling to be believers see true believers suffering and still having joy in God, it is the wake up call for them that this is real. It is the manifestation of the fact that these Christian people are dead to themselves and alive to God and God raises them from the dead in sin to be alive in Him. Does your faith sound out or do you live your supposedly Christian life with the sound off?