Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poured Out

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
(Philippians 2:17 – ESV)

In chapter two of this epistle Paul exhorts the Philippians to pour themselves out to one another. You live out the faith, you pour out what God has poured in with humility and without complaint. He says Christ was poured out, Paul himself was being poured out, Timothy was being poured out, and Epaphroditus was nearly all poured out.

I want to relate being poured out specifically to prayer. You are pouring out yourself to something every day already, time, money, effort, thoughts, deeds, words, every minute of every day your life is being poured out. If you pour it out in prayer and service to God He will keep pouring His Spirit within you and upon your sacrifice of faith.

Being poured out is the path to joy. Paul was poured out as wine upon their sacrifice. The wine was to symbolize joy indicating that the sacrifice was done with a joyful heart and with the intent to bring joy to the Lord. Paul is saying, “Even if I have to die it is a small thing, a little sacrifice compared to the far greater sacrifice and service coming from your faith. I am going to die but it will make the sacrifice complete.” He rejoices that he was counted worthy to make a sacrifice and that they were also. His tireless effort helped lead to their true faith.

You can be poured out the wrong way. The world speaks of pouring yourself out as well, but it is in the sense of pouring your life into what you do. A recent country singer captures this idea in his song, “Live Like You Were Dying”. Now the song is a nice sounding sentiment, to pour it all out, to live with intention, but all he talks about is thrill seeking and actually selfish things for the most part. It is a humanistic motivational idea. The video looks like it is supposed to be all spiritual or whatever, but it isn’t giving glory to God, it isn’t what being poured out means in the biblical sense. When compared to what Christ would have us do, we see that the sentiment to live with passion and intention can be perverted into getting the most for us out of this life instead of giving to God's glory as much as we can in this life. Indeed we ought to live like we were dying, dying to self, that is.

Christians want to be poured on or poured in but they haven’t yet poured out. We should be poured out, but people don’t want to take the risk of being poured out. People only want to serve the way they want to serve; they want to choose their altar of service. They need to realize that if they cannot pour themselves out in prayer then how could they ever in practice.

God takes a person who is truly filled with the Spirit and uses tough situations to spill them over, so that His power and presence can flood onto others’ lives, and then He fills the vessel once again. He doesn’t fill us with His Sprit just so that we can feel full. If you try and hold it all in you will get nothing but a spiritual stomachache. No, it is not about the fullness in our bellies but the overflow of His life out from our bellies. Christ promised rivers of living water to come forth from our hearts (John 7:38), but how can we expect to see this power if we won’t allow ourselves to be poured out?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

60 Seconds (2)


Zig Ziglar stated, “The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.” The word integrity means, “wholeness.” In mathematics, an integer is a number that is not divided into fractions. Thus, integrity means that a man is not divided in his heart or in his conduct.

The ancient Job said, “Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me,” Job 27:5. The word he used here for integrity means, “whole, upright, and fullness in measure.” In Psalm 26, David declared that he began in integrity, and will end in integrity. In verse one, he says, “I HAVE walked in my integrity,” and, concludes, “I WILL walk in my integrity.” He had learned that integrity must govern his life.

A study was done with over 40 executives, some of which had been fired, or forced to retire early, and others who had made it all the way to the top. All possessed extreme talent and remarkable strengths, yet flawed by one or more weakness. However, a closer study revealed that a certain type of flaw kept cropping up in a large number of them, and that one error, when committed, always led to their demise. The researchers called it “the unforgivable sin – betraying a trust.” Their lack of consistency and predictability built over time that says, “I will keep my word, and you can count on me,” is what ruined their careers.

Alan Simpson said, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” John Bunyan, author of “Pilgrims Progress,” after being in Bedford jail for years because of religious convictions, was offered by the magistrate to be released if he would cease his preaching on freedom of religion. He replied, “I will let the moss grow off of my eyebrows before I make a slaughterhouse of my conscience or a butchery of my principles.” Chuck Swindoll reminds us, “Real integrity stays in place whether the test is adversity or prosperity.”

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pleading, Pouring, and Power

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
(Philippians 2:17 – ESV)

The people that pray with passion are the people that stay in His presence. Not a false, worked up energy or showy emotionalism, but a heartfelt knowledge of His will and a willingness to lay out the case before Him in passionate prayer, in faith. It isn’t simply the volume or the amount of tears but if we are truly pouring out our heart it will often be accompanied by increased emotion. This isn’t faith in our fervor, but faith in our God. It isn’t a demonstration of a lack of faith; it is a demonstration of the power of it.

Sometimes it isn’t pouring out what you have extra, it is pouring out from what you need. Not like some seed faith thing, that is still selfish thinking, but something you have and you need. You have it and you are willing to lose it, and go without, to give to someone else, but in the name of God and knowing Him, not to look good, and not making a deal with God, not “I’ll do this if you do that”. If you want to get poured upon you must be poured out.

A man came from a town that was in severe drought and people were dying. He went to look for water, got lost and was near death. He would need to drink just to make it back to town, let alone get any water for anyone else. He pleaded to God for water. Soon he came across a pump with a canteen hung on the handle and a note. The note read: “This pump is routed directly to the neighboring towns, and below is a supply of all the fresh water they could ever need.” He was elated, and went to take a drink of the canteen when he read the rest of the note. “The canteen contains exactly enough water to prime the pump.” It takes great faith to pour out the whole contents of the canteen for a promise of unlimited water. Will you use the water to fill yourself or to prime the pump? Will you take the risk?

In Philippians 2 we see that Jesus Christ had enough but He gave up the comforts of heaven and gave His life to the cause. The Bible says therefore God has exalted Him. You may not be recognized, you may receive no earthly blessing, and you may actually be ridiculed, but will you pour yourself out then? Would you, will you, pour yourself out to someone who will hate you? Jesus Christ did, He died for us when we still hated Him, and God has poured out His love, that same love, by the Holy Spirit in us (Romans 5:5-8).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Sermon: The Fear of Easter

Romans 4:23-25 / Matthew 16:13-21

Now today I am going to give you an Easter sermon that you have probably never pondered before. We have covered all the usual topics in previous years, making the evidential case for the resurrection, and giving the encouragements that spring from the hope of the resurrection, and pleading the exhortations to believe because of the resurrection. Those are all biblical, needed, and well-placed sermons for people to hear on Easter Sunday. However, I want to explore another facet of the resurrection that leads to a different sort of life for Christians here on earth. It also is something that unbelievers can see about Jesus and grab a hold of as something to believe in, a reason to accept Christ, a real hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

The resurrection is about Jesus Christ rising from the dead, having atoned for our sins. It is about the fact that because of this, if we believe in Him, and believe He did indeed arise from the dead, we can also have eternal live, and arise from the grave some day. But the resurrection also means many other things, and having preached on it, and referring to it almost every week, and knowing that even the unbelievers here today have probably heard some of that before, I wanted to take a different tack today. This message will be all about the resurrection, but it is also about how it should filter down into our lives in a way that unravels some of the problems we face.

The resurrection takes care of the big picture, but it can also focus in on our specific, little, daily pictures and turn them into portraits of grace, built up by faith. So I am going to cover a little about the traditional Easter sermon, give you some verses to review, and then I am going to take our second text and show you something to enliven your faith and give you some marching orders in our daily battles with the enemy of our souls. If you feel caged in by life, by sin, by the world, by your circumstances today, listen up; this message could set you free.

Considering our text from Romans, it declares that our sin is why Jesus went to the Cross and our salvation is why He arose from the grave. We can be justified by faith because the resurrection proves that God the Father accepted the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. The resurrection is a cornerstone of the Christian faith.

This ties in with Hebrews 11:17-19 – Abraham believed in the resurrection power of God. Also, Job 19:25-27 / Isaiah 26:19-21 / Daniel 12:1-3 all speak of resurrection. Jesus resurrected Lazarus, and Jesus is not only resurrected, as He said He IS the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). To know Him is to know life and to be spiritually resurrected and eventually physically resurrected. Born again to live forever.

Predicting the resurrection was part of the Messianic vision of the Old Testament and what Jesus predicted during His own life: Psalm 16:10 (Acts 2:24-31), Psalm 22:22-31 (Matthew 27:46 alludes to the whole Psalm being fulfilled), Psalm 118:22 (Acts 4:10-11), Isaiah 53:10-12, Mark 9:31, Luke 18:33, John 10:17-18 (He laid it down on His own). Preaching the resurrection was the focal point of the Apostolic witness: Acts 3:15,26, 5:30, 10:40, 13:30-37, 17:3, etc.

Now there is another place where Jesus spoke of His resurrection, and we want to look a little closer today at Matthew 16:18-21 because it contains a fundamental promise that many people have never thought about from this passage. An important area of misunderstanding about the Church has to do with the phrase, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Many use Matthew 16:18 to affirm that the Church will endure no matter what evil might come against it. People say “the gates of hell” as if it is the forces of hell against the Church but that isn’t what this means primarily. What did our Lord mean by this statement? What are "the gates of hell"?

In biblical times, the gates of a city were the key points in the city's defenses. Massive gates with multiple inner gates were made to withstand opposing armies. To "possess the gate of your enemies" (Genesis 22:17), meant to conquer your enemy. When the gates of the city were breached, the attacking army had won. The city was conquered; the gates had not prevailed.

So what about the gates of hell? The Greek word used here, translated as "hell," is actually the word "Hades." Hades is not the same as hell, or "the lake of fire," but is a word that is used to describe the "realm of the dead". For example, in Luke 16:23 the word "Hades" is used to describe the place where the unbelieving dead await the final judgment. This distinction is also used in Revelation 20:13-15 where "death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire."

This background reminds us that all unbelievers are held captive behind the gates of Hell. John 3:18 says whoever does not believe is condemned already, but in Hebrews 2:14-15 we learn that by His death Jesus destroyed the power of the devil which is the fear of death.

So what are the gates of hell? The fear of death is what the gates of hell are about. It is the gates of death (cf. Job 38:17, Psalm 9:13, 107:18, Isaiah 38:10). So Matthew 16:18 reads like this – Upon this rock (Jesus as Messiah) I will build my church, and the gates of hell (fear of death) shall not prevail against it. It is not so much about the assault of the powers of darkness but that the Messiah and His Church will never perish, and Jesus will die but not stay dead. This is the main point of the passage, clearly seen by looking at verse 21. He is predicting His own resurrection, and also the resurrection of all believers. The Church will not fail because Jesus will not fail to rise again. This is a prophecy, not just that He will resurrect, but that we will resurrect also (cf. Romans 8:11 / 1 Corinthians 6:14 / 2 Corinthians 4:14).

When Jesus Christ died and rose again, the power of death was broken. Death was unable to keep its hold on our Lord Jesus, and in His death and resurrection He conquered death itself. Now, as members of His Body, we are also members in His victorious army. We can storm the "gates of hell" and rescue people from the clutches of death, rescuing those who are in fear. The gates of hell will not prevail against the assault of Christ's victorious Church. Our mission is to act on the truth of Christ's statement and snatch the captives as "brands from the fire" (Zechariah 3:2, Jude 23). It is not the picture of the forces of Hell attacking Christ’s Church, but of death’s lack of victory over the Church. The Church is built upon the Messiah, and death, the gates of Hell, will not prevail against it by keeping Christ imprisoned. Death cannot stop life (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death cannot overpower the church. The Gates of Hell shall not prevail. Why? Satan has the gates, but Jesus has the keys (Revelation 1:18).

Jesus is saying that death and all its power will never overcome the Church He is building. The fear of death will not prevail against the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah. Now listen, because I wan to go further, deeper into applying this truth. Christ delivered us from eternal hell and from the fear of a living hell. The resurrection takes away the fear of death, physical, spiritual, and leading to a lack of fear in the emotional as well. The resurrection takes away the wrong kind of fear and replaces it with the right kind of fear (Matthew 10:28). Fear is everywhere, but this is the process and progress of the gospel in our lives, the removal of fear. King Jesus takes over and starts clearing the house, as we trust Him (Mark 4:26-29). When we see Him working to remove unholy fear, the fear of men, the fear of being secure, the fear of being lonely, the fear of being poor, and working to instill holy fear (the fear of God), that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life. When we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives, and we will have holy gladness and holy boldness, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

Some Christians don’t often realize this, that Christ is working in us to remove fear from our lives. We may not have a fear of death but we let other fears come in and disturb us. This is why we need the ongoing work of the gospel to penetrate our lives, to release us from the smaller fears. The big gates are down but we are inside the inner gates still.

Gates are the things held up to keep people out. The gates of hell are like the caging of our souls in fear. The world the flesh and the devil all try and box us in but Jesus breaks us out those things that would cause us to fear (economy, health, injustice, conspiracy theories). When we find ourselves in fear of the things the world fears, we are obviously being worldly. Now this needs to be understood correctly, I am not saying we just rush into everything haphazardly, or that we shouldn’t make plans, no, not that at all. But we should, as Christians, never be subject to the terror others have about temporal things.

People think everyone is against them, and it is true, all the forces of the enemy want your destruction, but as a Christian, Jesus has His power in you, and you have a choice. Those things that would like to box us in, to cage us, to surround us with gates, those things, and those boundaries are what Jesus Christ has broken. The power of grace is the power to storm the gates as it were, to crash through with the gospel so as to rescue those that are in fear. When we show them the power of Christ over the greatest fear, and how it has transformed us, then we can begin to allow that power to transform the rest of our lives piece by piece. We may have great difficulties but we see Christ and how He overcame it all for us, and so no matter how far down we sink He has been lower and that cry lifts us up, as we know He has been lifted up out of that pit we too can be lifted. When we see Him working to remove unholy fear and working to instill holy fear that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life. When we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives. That is the right kind of fear, the fear of Easter.

A holy life: that is what people are afraid of, that is the fear of Easter, the wrong kind. “I’m afraid if I trust Jesus I won’t enjoy my life.” Well, if you don’t trust Jesus you are already dead. Christians fear that if they fully surrender to God He’s going to make them miserable. Friends you need to get to know God better than that!

Jesus sets new boundaries for us, not the gates of fear but the guard of grace, the yoke of Christ. His school teaches us to live in Godly fear while losing worldly fear. People think they live without boundaries but they are actually caged in by their own sin and living in fear of the unknown. People think Christians are caged in but they are the ones who are truly free. Free from the power of sin, death, and hell. Yes we still sin and we put up the gates, put the chains back on in a sense but again, when we see Him working to remove unholy fear and working to instill holy fear that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life when we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives. The resurrection takes away the wrong kind of fear and replaces it with the right kind of fear (Matthew 10:28).

We know how the resurrection affects our eternal destiny, but in the here and now it is about the gates of hell, of fear. 1 John 4:18 – Perfect love casts out fear. This verse is speaking primarily of the fear of death and eternal judgment, and that is the first fear that Jesus drives out with His perfect love. For fear to be cast out means it must have tried to enter in, or that fear can be driven out. It is not that we won’t ever have any fear at all but that fear is overcome by love, and we see His love in the crucifixion and resurrection. Sometimes fear has come in and we need to have it cast out by perfect love. Fear has many manifestations. Remember last week (Matthew 27:46) – we see His compassion but it is undergirded by a real conviction. The more we become convinced about the resurrection the more it can help us to overcome fear in this life. We need to ponder it and preach it to ourselves every day, to preach the gospel to ourselves.

We may not know all the answers but we can know Him is the answer and begins to give us answers as we trust in Him, as to why people suffer, why evil and war plague our planet, and why Christians have lost so much credibility as people who know how to love. When we see our Savior suffer the pains of hell for us, and yet still cry a very certain call out to the Father, we begin to see that He can deliver us from any depth of despair, and that we can trust Him no matter how far we have sunk into sin or sorrow.

Resurrection removes fear. Now fearless faith doesn’t mean reckless in the sense of tempting God it means trusting God. Not, “I have no fear so I am going to spend all my money on some project”, but, “I am without fear so I can withstand any onslaught”. We do need to get these things categorized in our minds correctly. I am not saying that we will live these spotless lives of super triumph in every situation. No I am saying we can have real feelings and still have real hope. We can be like Jesus and feel and be real, hurting in the short term but looking to the long term. Seeing through both the narrow and wider lens.

Proper distinction will lead to proper understanding. Fear is not sadness or depression; we can have sorrow but still have joy. Not having fear doesn’t mean we are foolhardy, and it doesn’t mean not taking care, or a lack of respect or disobeying authority. Freedom from fear is the freedom of faith. The fruits of faith are the fruits of a fearless life (Romans 8:31-39).

He has delivered us from the greatest fear, the fear of the unknown. When we see Him working to remove unholy fear and working to instill holy fear that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life. When we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives. We will not only feel free to die but we will feel free to live. We have talked of trusting the truth to set us free, and we have talked about connecting with Christ and with other about Christ in a real way, and the bridge between conception and connection is compassion. But that must be undergirded by conviction. We can bring true compassion because we have true conviction. If you get real with God He will be real to you. If you trust in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection, the gates of hell will not prevail against you. When you fear God you don’t have to fear anything else.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hold Your Fire!

…Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven…
(Luke 9:54 – HCSB)

James and John, the sons of thunder (Mark 3:17), took it upon themselves to become administers of God’s justice. Because the people were not receptive to Jesus, they felt it their responsibility to teach these folks a lesson for disrespecting God. How often do we presume to be standing up for the honor of God, and yet we do so in a manner not worthy of His grace?

Think about it. How many times have you seen someone in print, or television, or in person blaspheme the name of the Lord, or say derogatory things about God? How many of those times have you wanted to be like the Apostle Paul in Acts 13:10-11, and say to the offender, “I blind thee, wretched scum!” Tell the truth; aren’t you just like the disciples here, by pretense defending the honor of God, all the while defending your own self-esteem?

You must realize that we are no better than they; we are only recipients of God’s mercy and grace. We should not act haughty when we see others who do not believe; we wouldn’t either if it were not for God’s grace. Seeing staunch unbelievers should make us more humble, not more hardened. We are to suffer for His name’s sake; we must leave room for God to defend His own honor, in due time (2 Thessalonians 1:8 / Jude 15).

There is another lesson to learn here. In truth, the people were in the wrong; they didn’t receive Christ because He was seemingly looking past them to His destiny in Jerusalem. How like our own lives today, when Jesus is doing something for someone we know, but not for us, and we complain about it!

Hold your fire, you may be aiming at yourself.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Speaking in Tongues

… for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks
(Luke 6:45 – ESV)

There is always so much talk about “tongues”, are they real, are they fake, or are they demonic? Let me tell you, if you start any talk on the matter you are sure to see an object lesson. You will see gums flapping and the tongues wagging all over the place!

Now let me get to the point. This isn’t what we should be concerned about when we speak of the tongue, not primarily. I am not so concerned with whether or not “tongues” is real or even if it is unintelligible babble. I don’t care if you can speak a thousand languages. Once we are born again, the first new tongue we should be concerned with is in that language we already have. If the gospel hasn’t tamed your tongue all the gospel gibberish in the world won’t vindicate your vile mouth. If Christianity has never touched your tongue it has never touched your heart.

Yes, the one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself (1 Corinthians 14:4), but how is it that someone who claims Christ can be looking to use their tongue to build themselves up while also looking to use their tongue to tear others down?

Yes, we are to be praying at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), but how can you say that those things you speak and cannot interpret are good when all the other things we hear coming out of your mouth we cannot help but interpret as bad?

Yes, by praying in the Spirit you build yourselves up in your most holy faith (Jude 20). Yet we must remember it is the most holy faith, and a faith that cannot stop lying, cursing, tearing down others, gossiping, etc. is not a faith that needs tongues; it is a faith that needs a tourniquet!

The first new tongue we should be looking to speak with is one that speaks truth, love, encouragement, edification, and peace. Too often I have heard those who think they speak in the tongues of angels fail to realize that the one most people recognize as coming from them is the tongue of a viper. If there is venom on your lips there is poison in your heart.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Remember My Chains

Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
(Colossians 4:18 – ESV)

The Apostle Paul sure seemed to get a lot of work done while he was in prison, glory to God. His location may have changed, but his calling didn’t. He may have been bound, but he knew the Word of God wasn’t bound (2 Timothy 2:9). He was doing all he could do considering his circumstances, and more than most would have thought possible. But that is God’s grace, to show that the world’s chains cannot hold the Spirit of God down. It was as if Paul was saying, “Remember my chains, and see how even in this situation God’s grace is with me, and so you can see that His grace will be with you, too”.

However, that doesn’t mean he loved being in jail. Within this chapter, Paul mentions his situation 3 times (Colossians 4:3,10,18). This is particularly instructive. It shows us that although we can endure the greatest of hardships, that doesn’t mean we just become oblivious to them. I can do all things doesn’t mean mind over matter, it means Christ in circumstance.

Paul didn’t pretend that he didn’t care about being incarcerated. He just cared less about getting himself out of prison than he did about getting the good news out to the public. Paul’s priority wasn’t on himself. He prayed for the people he ministered to, and he asked them to do the ministry and pray for the ministry before thinking of him. Even then he prays for grace to help them in their own endeavors.

Still, we see that even the Apostle Paul needed to be prayed for, so don’t just keep all your troubles in, and don’t just say you have left it all to God. Part of giving it to God is letting others know you need to be prayed for, specifically. The strongest pray for the weak and the weakest pray for the strong. All Christians are bound for heaven, but while on this earth we will all be bound to have some of this world’s shackles to deal with. Let us remember to tell others we need prayer, and to pray that the chains of this life will show the true freedom we have in Christ.

We remember to pray for those in chains, but also to remark upon how God in His grace still allows them to be a shining light for Christ. The Colossians were to look to Paul and pray for his release, but also to look to Paul and see the abundant grace and be inspired to do all they could for Christ. The chains of the world can never hold the Word of God down, and we can prove that to the world and to ourselves as we remember the chains that others have used to show that fact.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Absolutely Not

You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires,
(Ephesians 4:22 – NET)

It is not true that there are no absolutes, no black and white, right and wrong issues and areas within our world, there surely are. But we must also realize that in many areas of our own lives, of all of our lives, we must learn to surf our way through the gray before we can get to the solid rock of understanding what is right and wrong. To deny the complexity of the problem is to deny the reality of the situation.

Sometimes there are so many chains attached to our souls that they must come off one at a time, and we must continue to be on the lookout for what may be dragging us down. As we do, we can then make our movement at a greater speed toward what God wants us to be. The transformation of a renewed mind is the development in the discipleship process. It is not an overnight thing, or a simple decision we make, but a process with progress. We have to realize what lies we have believed that have made us bound by the deceitfulness of sin.

When we encounter such people with many chains, first help them see their burden, and help them lift the load, before renouncing them for their lack of progress. We must be helpful to those who are truly trying to make it, lest they drown in despair. As they swim toward the ideal, let us cheer them on, and not be so quick to say, “Why aren’t you at the other end of the pool yet?”

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 21, 2008

60 Seconds


Dr. Richard Dobbins, in his book, “Narrowing The Risk Of Mate Selection,” wrote, “No one takes a bigger chance than when he or she marries. There’s nothing like being married. If you’re happily married, there’s nothing like it. If you’re unhappily married, there’s still nothing like it.”

It has been observed that some couple’s seem to view their marriage certificate as “a license to strike.” Difficulties, separation, and sadly, divorce, are seldom a blow-out, but a slow leak.

A seasoned marriage counselor has observed how couples wound one another in their marriage. He gave the following:

What Wounds A Woman

*An awareness that she is not first in her husband’s life

*Her husband’s failure to recognize her attempts to please him

*Unfavorable comparison to other women

*Her husband’s lack of spiritual leadership

*Rejection of her opinion as important

*Inconsistency in the discipline of the children

*Attempts to correct her in public

What Wounds A Man

*Resistance to his will

*Lack of confidence in his opinion or decisions

*Resentments for past failures

*Failure to build loyalty in the children

*Lack of a grateful spirit

*Inconsistency in the discipline of the children

*Criticism in public

In his chapter, “Before Divorce,” Harold Hazelip stated, “ Someone has said that marriage is a work of art that is never finished. It is the most challenging and complex of all the works a human being can create. It is not like painting, poetry, architecture, or a novel. We can never put down the tools of this art form, step back, and pronounce the work complete. Marriage is an ongoing project.”

“Husbands, love your wives,” Ephesians 5:25.

“Admonish the…women to love their husbands,” Titus 2:4.

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Fl.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 18, 2008

Where the Wind Blows

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
(John 3:8 – ESV)

The word used for wind and the word used for Spirit is the same in this verse. Truly, the Spirit blows where He wants to, He is sovereign over who is born again. Remember this fact: the Spirit blows where He will, not where we will. No one knows where the wind blows, yet we can know in a sense, because where the true gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, there the breath of God will surely be felt among those whose dry bones now live. We are born again by the Word of God (James 1:18 / 1 Peter 1:23-25), which is empowered by the Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13), so where there is true gospel preaching, the wind of the Spirit is sure to blow.

Now true gospel preaching will make much of the fact that we can bring nothing to the table to bargain with God. No matter how good we have been, no matter how much sacrifice we have made, no matter how little we have injured others, and no matter how we think we have served God, we have nothing with which to enable us in any way to advance our case. We must have the righteousness of Jesus Christ accredited to our account or we will never be forgiven, never be reconciled to God, never be redeemed, and never enter heaven. The only thing that can count for salvation is the righteousness of God Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21 / Titus 3:5), that is the only thing He requires, and we must have it or we have nothing.

We might think we have something to say, but we mustn’t speak of our own merit when approaching the bar of God. Even those gracious acts of God wherein He has allowed us to pursue some measure of righteous action in no way constitute saving power. Anything He gives us as an instrument is still only something to use for His righteous glory, and it is not His righteous glory itself, which we must have or we will not have what we need the most. Save your sanctimony or you won’t be saved. The wind blows on those who know they have no breath, and that they must have the breath of God Himself in order to truly live.

The gospel has been largely lost today, and we need men and women who have a passion for the gospel, people who feel the power of the Word of God in their own souls. Believers who believe that the gospel is what we need today, and every day, and people who will stop looking for answers everywhere but where the One True answer is. Most Christians would say they know the gospel but we need people who have a real grasp of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We need people who are possessed by the gospel, who are controlled by its grip. We need people who know that God is sovereign in salvation, people who have been knocked down from their pedestal and onto their blinded faces by the glory of God like Paul on the road to Damascus. We need people who realize that the only reason they have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ is because they have felt the icy chill of the windy Spirit on their dead bones. We need people who have felt the power, who have heard where the wind blows, who know that salvation is all of God or it is none of God.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Service Station

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
(Romans 12:1)

Immediately following verses 1 and 2 of Romans 12, Paul begins to describe the fruits of the gospel, the indicatives and imperatives of Christian service. If you will not even regularly attend a church service how can you say you are truly serving the Lord? How can you with one breath say He is the most important thing in your life, and then with the next breath yearn to do other, lesser things than to go to or stay in church even one day of the week? How can you say you serve God if you won’t even serve in the church? The truth about church here is really a simple thing to see: if you don’t even want to go, it is indicative of your spiritual condition.

We go to the gas station to get our tanks filled up, and church is the spiritual filling station. Now being filled up in the context of community is how we are filled with the Spirit, this is what Paul is pointing out in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5. Individuals indeed fill the church but together as a filled up unity they are fit for battle, not as toy soldiers fit for failure.

Where are you going to trim your wick and get your oil, always on your own terms? Not so: we must let our light shine, and we shine together through the local church as a beacon. Sure enough we do that individually out in the world, but come on now, do you really think you can fool anyone else but yourself into believing that you are letting your light shine when you stay in your cave on Sunday mornings?

Even if you venture out, are you really doing that so as to let your light shine out to those who aren’t in church, or are you just joining them in their misery? Perhaps you don’t see it as misery; you like it better than being in an old stuffy building or home with a bunch of other people. That is a selfish service, a one stop one man service station, but let me tell you that kind gets no customers and will soon run out of gas.

You may think you are full of God, but you are reading the gauges wrong.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Standing Still

Be still, and know that I am God.
(Psalm 46:10)

One way to be giving glory to God is by standing still. While the world unknowingly rushes headlong over the cliffs of corruption, we stay put. Blaise Pascal said, “When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship. When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops, he shows up the others who are rushing on by acting as a fixed point.” As believers we are to be that fixed point. The whole world is headed for destruction, but God saves us out of it, and we are to live as lights in this world (Philippians 2:15).

Now the truth is that a lighthouse doesn’t actually “save” anybody, but its light prevents many from being shipwrecked. The world is always talking about moving forward, but they don’t even know where they are going, as they are without a compass. As Christians, we have a map, we have a light, the Word of God, and we can live, and move, and have our being guided as by God when we walk in the Spirit of that Word. We move on with the Gospel, and as we walk the path of repentance and faith we walk in the Spirit, we show others the Way, and we stand firm against the enemy, “and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13 – ESV)”.

Of course, we know that this will bring persecution, but it will also glorify God (1 Peter 4:12-14). We will be called “holier than thou”, accused of impeding progress, and warned that we are becoming irrelevant and losing our credibility. And so we can then glorify God as God, as it says we do not naturally do in Romans 1:21, etc. This is how to do it. It is Christ who allows us to suffer for His sake and glorify God. We do it by standing still. Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD…(Exodus 14:13).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 11, 2008

Feel the Pain

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
(Hebrews 5:8 – ESV)

Are you in touch with the reality of this text? Christ had no sin, yet He learned by suffering. The next verse says that through this learning He was made complete, it perfected Him in the mission the Father gave Him. In our daily lives, we either learn to be obedient through suffering or we have to suffer more. Even if and when we learn, we still might suffer but we will still be obedient, as the clarity of our vision of God has changed.

People are challenged by life as to whether they will trust God through trials or not. Often their grief leads to gloom. As pastors, we may not have to deal with some of the things on the level of some of our people, but we will have to deal with them at some level. All of them. All the time. Grief upon grief, and it can be overwhelming if a man doesn’t lean on God. Pastors have to deal with grief challenging their notions of “do they believe in God despite suffering” every day. As the Great Shepherd feels the pain of His sheep (Hebrews 4:15), so too are His under-shepherds made to feel the pain of the people they must keep watch for.

Now some pastors are avoiding burnout, but they are doing that by avoiding their biblical role. They say that they “don’t do counseling”. Well they may not be expert in all areas, and they can use all the tools at their disposal, including other ministers and godly agencies. However, in any event they should be keeping in touch with their folks to know what their problems and concerns are and be praying for them. Not just corporate prayer, but prayer for specific individuals. If they never even talk to their “problem people” they are in effect letting the wolves go after the sheep without a care. Such a man is a hireling, for sure.

Some other pastors insulate themselves from grief by teaching falsehood. They are fond of putting it all back on the pew and avoiding the pressure. They tell folks they only suffer because they “lack faith”. Now some believers might be weak in the faith and as unstable as water, but many times this isn’t the case, and the pastor is just trying to avoid the reality that his “faith message” is a farce. My contention is that those pastors lack grace, saving grace.

Still other pastors have churches that grow so large they become isolated from their congregation on that score. If all their time is study, books, media, meetings, etc., then they have sailed away into the success of their dreams, but they have failed to listen to the voice of God telling them to tend to the flock, personally. If you have a large church, have more pastors. Can any man successfully tend to more than 100 by himself? I am not talking about generic prayer for generic people; I am talking about specific prayer for specific people. I am talking about knowing their problems and feeling their pain, praying personally with them at times and being there for them at all times. Every pastor must be personally tending to at least some or he isn’t what he thinks he is. No shepherd is above tending sheep.

It is all about suffering; we are modeling Jesus to the world. It is not that He suffered so we might not in this life, but that we might have an example in this life and live in the next where we don’t suffer. We are modeling for eternity the power to overcome what everyone has to deal with. Our profession is that yes we believe in spite of and indeed in a sense because of the suffering. We identify with Jesus Christ the suffering servant.

Pastors if you don’t learn to draw near in these times you will find yourself blowing off steam in ungodly ways. It may not start out that way but you must learn that it doesn’t just automatically go away. You must pursue this idea of drawing near when the pressure is on, not simply grit your teeth and endure it, but come to Christ and share it. Don’t hold it in alone. It may not seem like a big deal but it truly is. This is the thing that ensnares you and makes you go to other sources for comfort when it should be that you learn to draw near through these pressing matters on your soul. As people wear you out don’t keep it all in, draw near to Him and let it out to Him in prayer. In those moments don’t wait; the moment you feel it is the moment He is at the door waiting to enter in. Will you enter in?

The bridge between conception and connection is compassion, and that compassion must be undergirded by real, true conviction. You feel the pain, and you know the Lord, and you can speak as His ambassador to those He has placed in your care.

You don’t have to go through every trial to be able to bring the Bible to bear on a subject. But you do have to feel the pain, in a sense, with people as they go through difficult times. If you don’t all you speak are words without unction. Now I ask you again, are you in touch with the reality of this text, or are you just using words?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Place of Grace

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16 – ESV)

The writer to the Hebrews is putting this all together now. Let us therefore with assurance keep coming, we are free to speak, we can confidently approach the throne of God in His grace. We can enter in because He has entered in. Since we do have such a Great High Priest, we can enter into the presence of God and find provision. We can come to Him for grace so that we will not yield under the pressure, and for mercy if and when we do.

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

To help – to undergird like we see it used in Acts 27:17 – help in righting the ship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

He Feels It

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
(Hebrews 4:15 – ESV)

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

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

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

The word for weaknesses is often used in the Gospels for physical illness. Here it means we have no strength, not physical strength but that we have no spiritual strength. Now we may indeed be increasing in spiritual strength as we mature, but we still have weaknesses, and we rely on Jesus more as we see them and repent of trying to do it through our own lack.

This is the Christian way; we are actually growing stronger in Him as we realize the weakness in ourselves. Then we receive the strength of Christ. We confess our weakness and repent of trying to do it our way, and then we walk that out as we place faith in Christ as our strength. In order for Christ to give us His strength we have to come to the place where we realize our weakness. We have to admit we are unable to resist, and we repent, and have faith that Jesus can and will operate. He shows us our weakness, and He gives us strength. What will it take for you to realize you can’t handle it? Apart from the grace of God you are without strength.

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

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 07, 2008

For Nothing, But In Everything

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
(Philippians 4:6 – NKJV)

We have concerns, objectives, wants and needs, but what we are commanded not to have is worries. The proper subject of prayer is everything, no area of our life is exempt, God wants us to bring it all to Him. Prayer is an important way to overcoming obstacles, in that God answers prayer, and through it He also reveals what the obstacles are, we see the problems within ourselves that we can handle and we gain perspective on those things we have no control of, and we ask God to control them or to give us wisdom in how to deal with them. If you will request, He will reveal (A-S-K – Matthew 7:7-8).

Prayer is a broader word that can mean all of our communication with God, but supplication directly asks God to do something. Pray for peace and agreement in the fellowship, even when it is going good.

With thanksgiving – thank Him for what you have before you ask Him for what you need. The first thing they thanked God for in the Old Testament prayers was proclaiming God’s majesty and His mighty acts of redemption, and specifically the deliverance from Egypt and the bondage of slavery (2 Samuel 7:22-23 / Nehemiah 1:5-10). Now we thank God for His greatest act of redemption, and proclaim the work of Jesus Christ and our deliverance from the bondage of sin.

Thank Him that He started it and He will finish it, that He is working in us to do and to will and that He gives us strength to endure all things that we may be going through right now and in the future. We are going to make it, guaranteed, and we need to always come back to this as our bottom line as to why we can give thanks at all and accept whatever God may have for us to do or for us to go through.

Tell God what you have done wrong before you ask Him to make it right. In this particular passage the situation Paul was describing with the two ladies is like many situations we might face. We need to acknowledge the fact that we have split opinions and that we are not fully mature yet and that we need help to come together. We understand that we are together but we need the Lord to bring us to unity in verity. We have done wrong, not necessarily with willful malice, but the fact that we don’t see eye-to-eye means we are wounded in some way and we need God to heal us. We give thanks knowing that He can and He will if we will act in accordance with the bottom line.

As an individual, understand that God already knows what you have done wrong, but He wants you to live in constant view of the fact that He does know all that is going on about you, more than we know about ourselves. Realizing that we are open to God (Hebrews 4:13) helps us to live a more holy life. The Lord is at hand, indeed.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 04, 2008

Not Now

…do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers…
(2 Chronicles 29:11 – ESV)

Why are we looking to minister only in the way and time we want to, like right after we come off the mountaintop? Why do we think we have to have it all together, and why do we think that we ever do? Often, God lets us be used when we are down in the dumps, because then we truly realize the power is from God, and it helps us to be ready, in season and out. When we feel guilty but God uses us anyway, we see that we really do have a real faith, and that God is the one whose got a hold of us, and we can turn back to God with full assurance of faith. God allowing us to be used in our so-called weakest moments is His way of getting us to draw closer to Him.

We don’t earn ministry opportunities by being good little boys and girls, but we are allowed to see them by believing God is real, and recognizing opportunities as they come. Of course, drawing close to God in holiness helps us to realize these things, but God will allow us to minister even when we are seemingly far away from Him so as to get us to want to draw closer again. When you see God use you when you’ve been bad, repent, He is waiting for you with open arms. So if you just told someone else about believing God for his or her life, and now He has just shown you He is real by using you in your weakest moments, catch the clue, take some of your own medicine, and believe Him for your problem. That is “Christian Success”.

Be looking for God to send someone by at the “wrong time”. Your agenda is never as important as God’s. Remember, being faithful in a little thing is a big thing. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and those that walked on by. They had bigger and more important things to do, like teaching at the temple, but they missed the ministry just lying there waiting to happen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Grab a Hold

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
(Hebrews 4:14 – ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have an inside man, we have a connection, and this man is in the right position to help us, that is His purpose, He’s in the right place, and He has the power. Grab a hold of Him.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Do or Die

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

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

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

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Use It or Lose It

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

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

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

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

We are rejecting the Word that we don’t act upon, that we don’t rush into. If we think we can store it away for a later time, then we lose it. We must at least begin to act upon it, we may not be able to take all the land at once, but we must cross the threshold, begin to take the land God has promised us, to defeat the giant sins in our lives, and not stay back at Kadesh-Barnea. As Christians we continually are up against giants, we cannot win on our own, we are always at Kadesh-Barnea, and every day we have a choice to make.

To deny this, to stay back is to deny Christ who has already defeated them for us. It is disobedience; it is unbelief. We may get a chance to get it back, but our hearts will have become more hardened to it, unless and until we pray for it to come back and to penetrate deeply once again, and give us another chance at repentance and faith. Better to do it, to act while the blade is ready to do its work.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©