Friday, January 30, 2009

God Knows My Heart

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ
(Ephesians 5:21 – ESV)

Some people might think that in talking so much about being filled with the Spirit that I am touting an overly personal, mystical, and esoteric Christianity, but no, I am preaching about Biblical Christianity, and it is those who want to live outside the experience of church life that are actually having their own brand of experimental Christianity, and they count their personal experience as somehow equal to God’s design. It seems more holy to them, and so they think they are being godly, but they are becoming their own God. Their will is to do sanctification their own way, but we don’t have the right or the true freedom to do that, because it isn’t God’s will. It may look shiny but it is actually selfish.

Think about it, and how many people who think they are saved are counting on some experience or something they think is deep inside them that is good, and they talk about God when you are near, or they send you religious emails and all that, or they will come to church once in a blue moon and they will relate to you of some experience they have had, but they haven’t had the born again experience! It’s obvious.

Now I am not saying all religious emails are bad, but more often than not they are just promoting the American civil religion, the pick yourself up by the bootstraps, rugged individualism ideal that has nothing to do with the Spirit of God exalting Jesus Christ in your life. Again, I am not against people talking to me about things that inspire them, but this doesn’t justify them from their sin in God’s sight! You don’t need to prove to me how holy you are.

How many times have you heard, “well, God knows my heart”? This happens so very often with people who want to justify themselves from the fact that they are blatantly ignoring the teachings of the Bible. Now if someone is actively longing and looking for committed fellowship and discipleship, well their intentions are indeed known to God, and He will help them, and I am not criticizing them at all. However, most are not trying and wanting that, they are trying and wanting to get out of having to be a vital part of a local church. They say, well God knows my heart, and I say yes, He absolutely does, they are right about that. The problem is that while God knows your heart, YOU don’t know your heart, and let me prove it to you. You say God knows your heart, and God says the Bible is how you know what He is thinking about your heart.

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

His Word reveals the condition of your heart, and this passage in Ephesians tells you what God says being filled with the Spirit looks like. So no matter what you think your heart looks like, God says that if you aren’t speaking, singing, sanctifying, and submitting to others in a community of believers, then you are not filled with the Spirit. Yes God knows your heart, and He uses His Word to reveal to you the condition of it.

Proverbs 28:26 (KJV) – He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Proverbs 21:2 – Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

Perhaps it is time to pray Psalm 19:12-14 / Psalm 139:23-24, and then ask God to show you from His Word about that “heart surgery” you need.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Filling or Faking

always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
(Ephesians 5:20 – NET)

We can see from this text (Ephesians 5:15-21) that being filled with the Spirit is God’s will, very easy to see, right? Well, let’s think about that because you cannot tell me you are filled with the Spirit if you don’t go to church. This passage makes it obvious that you are not. If you are not plugged in, you are losing power.

A person who wants to believe that they can stay away from church and grow might say, “Well I am living better than I ever have, I sin less, I am a better Christian”. No, you only think you are, this text teaches that you are foolish, you are using selfish measures, you are not living out your holiness in the midst of all us sandpaper people, you’re cheating, and your growth is just your head swelling ‘cause you don’t cuss no more.

You are cheating on us too, because you aren’t giving your gifts back to God’s people, the very gifts God has given you for others. It’s not only what you aren’t doing, but what you are doing. You might not be sinning by commission, but by omission, and really it’s both. You may not be cursing as much by staying home, but you are cursing God’s design for the sanctification of your life. You may not be getting drunk with alcohol, but you aren’t drinking deep at the fountain of God’s Spirit, you are wallowing in the shallow waters of kiddy-pool Christianity. Life in the Spirit is cultivated in the context of a local church community.

You need to follow God’s design because if not you will fall further away from the faith, guaranteed. You need to examine yourself in the light of this text, and in the light of His Word, not just the bits you enjoy. You see it is especially dangerous when your measure is your personal ideas about holiness, because especially if your personal, biblically under-examined experience convinces you that all is well, that is what truth becomes to you regardless of what judgment the Word of God says to that experience. You need to look at the light of this text.

Listen to me carefully; even if you seem to be doing worse when you consistently come to church, the biblical truth is that you are still being sanctified by it. It is just like having those rough patches in your marriage; it is all part of God using it to sanctify you and your spouse. Marriage will give you the butt whipping you need!

If you are not married this doesn’t exclude you, I was just using marriage as an illustration, and it still applies to singles, young people, widows and widowers, and everyone else. Eventually your Christianity has to work itself out in a certain place at a certain time. Regardless of where you end up, you will experience tension and have problems. The truth is that this imperfection may be precisely what you need in order to deepen in the knowledge of God.

You need to be filled with the Spirit, and it is done in the context of church and living a godly life in its community! Stop being a fake, and start getting filled; let the good times roll!

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Filled Up or Falling Down?

addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart
(Ephesians 5:19 – ESV)

It’s all too easy to fall into the same old traps. That is why in Ephesians 5 Paul says we need to be careful with our time, and wise about our walk (vs.15), rescuing our time from being wasted on evil things (vs.16). Don’t let the devil steal your day. We must stop being foolish and learn to be understanding God’s will (vs.17), and not allowing excesses and lesser things be our source of joy, but endeavoring instead to be filled with the Spirit (vs.18). If you are not doing this, then this is why you are having trouble.

Now going forward we see from Ephesians 5:19-21 what are certain results of being filled with the Spirit. We cannot ignore what the Bible says we need to be doing in this text and still think we are trying to consciously and diligently seek God. Speaking, singing, sanctifying, and submitting in the context of community; this is being in God’s will and how we can be developing a Spirit filled life.

Lots of people know that being filled with the Spirit is the key to the Christian life, but there are marks to identify what being filled actually results in. Too many think it just means being overly emotional and they act as if being filled with the Spirit means they lose self control, but the fruit of the Spirit IS self control (Galatians 5:23). Now it can be exciting, but there are markers of the Spirit filled life, and this text points them out. Too many are all barks and no marks when it comes to being filled with the Spirit.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Keep it Full

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit
(Ephesians 5:18 – ESV)

We all want to have a good time, but over the course of time, what we like changes. What tickles a toddler’s fancy is different from what an adolescent finds enjoyable, and young adults and maturing adults often want to do very different things with their time. The truth is that our tastes change, but we all want to have a good time.

The truth for Christians is that our idea of a good time is transformed as we grow closer to God. God uses the Bible to redefine what a good time really is, and gives us pictures of what that looks like. It is not just about fun, but about faith, the word “good” meaning not just enjoyable but honoring to God, goodness and joy in God, redefined to be closer to His ideals as we grow in His grace. It can happen; we can have a good time doing good things. Even in bad times, we can let the good times roll.

We learned in the previous verses that we should examine our stewardship of time (vs.15), exercise our discretionary time (vs.16), and elevate our spiritual time (vs.17). Today’s text is about glorifying God with our time by being filled with the Spirit, that is what it takes to let the good times roll no matter our current situation. The Greek in vs.18 literally reads as a command, “be being filled with the Spirit”. This is God’s will for our lives, to keep pursuing godliness, to keep being filled.

The context of being filled with the Spirit is living that out in loving relationships. It is speaking to one another, singing to each other and in our hearts (vs.19), sanctifying our relationships with prayer and thanks to God for each other (vs.20), the NET translates verse 20 this way, “always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and submitting to one another in our God given roles (vs.21ff). Again, speaking, singing, sanctifying, and submitting. This is giving the praise to God.

Now this is not so much a list of how to be filled as it is a picture of what it looks like when you are filled. That being said, it is obvious that doing these things is being in God’s will and developing a Spirit filled life, and a key in staying full. The things in this text are showing you where you can start. Do this and be full, says Paul. This text tells us, literally, to “keep being filled”, and so we ought to keep doing all of these things. In contrast, as Paul points out, drunkenness is no good. In the filling of the Spirit is where our sin meets its match.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 26, 2009

60 Seconds (30)


Martin Luther asked, “If two goats meet each other in a narrow path above a pool of water, what do they do? They cannot turn back, and they cannot go around each other, and there is not an inch of spare room. If they butt each other, both will fall into the water and drown. What will they do, do you suppose? What would you do? Well, nature has taught the one goat to lie down and let the other goat pass over it, and then they both get to the end of the way safe and sound.” Lesson: When we are at an impasse, if I am willing to lie down and let you pass over me, then we both will be saved.

Paul stated to the Corinthian believers, “It has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren,” I Corinthians 1:11 (RSV). “Quarreling” means “strife, wrangling, and contention.” The word quarreling also described battles in war. Robertson and Plummer say, “The divisions became noisy.” It has been correctly said, “To get the best of an argument, stay out of it.”

In Proverbs 15:1, we read, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Endless quarreling among themselves of the tribes of Israel hastened the end of Solomon’s empire after his death. Civil war resulted, with the northern ten tribes seceding, and following Jeroboam. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, formed Judah in the south, with Jerusalem as the capital. In feud after feud, they shed each other’s blood. Judah built Mizpah, a fortress on the main route, from Jerusalem to the north. Excavations at this ancient site revealed a wall twenty-six feet thick. This huge defensive wall shows how hard and bitter the division was between Israel and Judah. Remember, “The more arguments you win, the fewer friends you will have.”

Proverbs 20:3 declares, “It is honorable for a man to stop quarreling, since any fool can start a quarrel.” Two old women, for an hour or more, argued over whether or not the train window at their seat should be open. “I’ll die of pneumonia if it is,” one declared. “I’ll die of suffocation, if it’s not,” demanded the other. At last, a very bored man in the seat across the aisle, suggested to the conductor, “Why don’t you open it until one gets pneumonia, and then close it until the other suffocates. Then we’ll have peace.”

“Do all things without complaining and arguing,” Philippians 2:14.

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Prayer for the President

First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority…
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 – NET)

In the United States of America, on January 19, 2009, we celebrated the life, legacy, and longing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his famous “I have a dream” speech, Rev. King said that his dream was that one day men would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Now, on January 20, 2009, at least in one very important sense, the day has come.

We may not agree that this man, Barack Obama, this man of color, this man the people have freely chosen, has the character we think a President ought to have, but we also can see that his color did not hold him back from being elected to the highest office in the land. We may not agree in theology or politics, but we can all agree that it is a step in the right direction, for a man of a different color than all the Presidents before has been chosen to serve.

Here is my prayer for our new President.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that your truth is still as valid today as ever. Your Word says that “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). We know that you can do impossible things, O God! Our prayer is that through this man, through these times, your righteousness would prevail. May your righteousness prevail upon his life for his salvation. May your righteousness prevail in his work, for his administration and stewardship. May your righteousness prevail in his family. May your righteousness prevail for our country, in its policies, pronouncements, and decisions. May your righteousness prevail that our President would stand for what is right, and for those who cannot defend themselves, including the unborn. May your righteousness prevail that our President would influence others toward right thinking and action, with all wisdom and prudence. May your righteousness prevail upon him so he would be an example of what righteousness truly is, and as a witness to God’s righteousness. May your righteousness prevail that it might be seen of all men, through this man, for your glory, O God.

We pray that you would protect President Obama during the Inauguration and in the following days and years as he leads the United States of America, and as an example to the world. Lord, we pray that you would bless us, not simply by sanctioning our choices, but rather that you would stir our hearts and steer our paths. This we ask that your name would be glorified, your Word would be magnified, your people would be edified, and your kingdom be multiplied. May your righteousness prevail for your glory, O God. This we ask in Jesus name, amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fire Extinguisher

take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
(Ephesians 6:16 – ESV)

Do not put out the Spirit's fire;
(1 Thessalonians 5:19 – NIV)

Learning to live the life of faith can be frustrating at times; especially if you don’t understand the battleground you are on. It seems like you are on fire for God one minute, and then later it is like you are in the burning pit of hell. Why is it like this, what is going on, you might say?

Well, most Christians know that we are in a spiritual war, but did you know that the devil is not your greatest enemy? Your old man of the flesh is your greatest enemy. What the devil tries to do is set on fire the fuel that is already there. The Holy Spirit within you is also trying to start a fire, but a holy one that envelops you with a burning passion for God.

The truth is that there are two fires we must tend to as Christians. One we must stoke (2 Timothy 1:6) and one we must stop. Both fires are trying to blaze, and you are always extinguishing one or the other. The shield of faith quenches the fiery darts of the devil, and those are darts aimed to enflame your flesh. Either you will quench those darts or quench the Spirit, quench the devil’s fire or the Spirit’s fire. It is one or the other, at all times. There is no neutral ground; the devil will rush in to set on fire the places you are leaving unguarded (Ephesians 4:27).

You will either deny yourself or deny the power of God. In those moments that you sense your new man and your old man at war, the Spirit is not just trying to get you through that moment, and not just trying to get you to do the right thing. The Spirit is trying to sustain your life force, the fire is going out, and He is putting kerosene on the pilot light that is why it can seem like such a flare up and perhaps painful. He is reminding you that you are dousing the life right out of you. The shield of faith quenches the fiery darts of the devil, the shield of the flesh quenches the Spirit. Don’t quench the Spirit’s fire.

Don’t deny the Spirit’s power to live a life sanctified increasingly to God. This would be the opposite of the list in 2 Timothy 3, which talks of having a form of godliness but denying the power. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 – ESV). The Spirit gives you the power to deny yourself instead of denying God in this way.

Satan doesn't need to read minds because he has at least 6000 years of reading behavior. He can plant thoughts perhaps, but he can definitely observe when a sinful stimulus appears and our response to it, and therefore know how to strategize. Our enemies in the spiritual war are allowed behind the lines, as it were, and we had better realize that. There are no secret sins; you are putting lighter fluid on one pilot light, and putting your fingers on the other.

In those moments where you have that choice you either choose life or death, and the problem for some is that the choice of life feels like death...and it is, it is death to self, and since they aren't used to it, it is a seemingly unbearable pain, but we must arm ourselves with this mind (1 Peter 4:1). At all times, the Spirit either is working in your life or He is becoming grieved (Ephesians 4:30). You are a fire extinguisher; the question is which one?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 16, 2009

How to Have a Good Time

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit
(Ephesians 5:18 – ESV)

The verses surrounding our text speak of what being filled with the Spirit looks like. Being filled with the Spirit means doing His will, and part of how that is lived out is explained in the chapter. Be sure to notice that marriage time IS spiritual time!

Yes, this verse is telling us, “Don’t get drunk”, but we should consider the fuller context. Paul is using drinking to excess as a tool to show things that are unwise (vs.15), selfish uses of time (vs.16), foolish, and out of God’s will (vs.17). This applies to anything we are addicted to or anything that is a waste of godly time. Get excited about godly things that will fill you with true joy, not excessive exuberance brought about by a false hope you’re using to cope. You have got to change what you think is a good time. Paul is saying that if we want a Spirit filled revival in our lives, we need to wake up (vs.14).

No one drinks like that to bless people; you don’t get drunk in order to submit to God or others. It is about the self, the opposite of the Spirit. It may be the means you use to cope right now, but now is the time to learn God’s way. The problem isn’t simply that you can’t do it right now; I believe you when you think you can’t. However, it starts by developing a lifestyle of obedience; you must learn to be filled with the Spirit. Little obedience leads to big obedience; a lifestyle of obedience begins small.

Are we drunk on defeat because we are waiting for God to instantly cause us to be obedient? That isn’t walking in the Spirit; it is walking in a stupor.

When you are filled with something it is what you are full of, nothing else gets in at all, you are filled full. The process of filling is doing God’s will in certain moments, it is all you think about, and in those moments you are filled. If that doesn’t make sense, then how about this: consciously seek to obey God. Is that plain enough?

The context of being filled with the Spirit is living that out in loving relationships. It is speaking to one another, singing to each other and in our hearts (vs.19), sanctifying our relationships with prayer and thanks to God for each other (vs.20), and submitting to one another in our God given roles (vs.21). Again, speaking, singing, sanctifying, and submitting. This is giving the praise to God.

Are people who are getting drunk or wasting their time on ungodly things doing this? Of course not, and no wonder they aren’t filled with the Spirit, as much as they may say they want to be. We need to heed all of this, it isn’t just the speaking and the singing, but the sanctifying and the submitting too, it all counts toward the goal of living Spirit filled. Sometimes we have the excitement of being together, but we still aren’t together, know what I mean? Instead of speaking, sanctifying, and submitting we go for slander, spoiling and subversion. Instead of the sweet songs from God we hear the sounds of Satan in our hearts, and we even “get in the groove” with it and think everything is fine. Oh, by the way, don’t tell me you are filled with the Spirit if you don’t go to church. This passage makes it obvious that you are not.

In the morning you give your will to God. You say that you want to be willing? Well then give God your will and don’t follow your flesh. Take up your cross and cause your flesh to be dead every day, learn to obey. You are teaching yourself to obey or not; all those little things you think don’t matter really do. Instead of grieving the Spirit we ought to be about cultivating the Spirit, and obedience is where it’s at, my friend.

It isn’t about conquering the world or even conquering your world it is about Jesus conquering you, letting his mission become your mission. What is your mission? What is the best use of your time? It is time to get wise, and be wise about choices, and you do that by asking God (James 1:5).

So how much time are you giving to God? Let me tell you something, you should be giving God all your time. However, that doesn’t mean what you might think. You see, this is not simply about time management; it is about Jesus and you. If we got saved and that was it, we would instantly go to heaven. But we remain for a purpose, to glorify God. This is just like the fact that Christ could have died right after the Incarnation, but He fulfilled all righteousness by living a sinless life in our place. It is not just His death but His life that counts. Be filled with the Spirit so that it is not just in your death, but in your life that Christ counts. You have got to learn how to have a good time, full of the right kind of Spirit.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spiritual Elevation

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
(Ephesians 5:17 – ESV)

The key to a spiritually productive life is being in the will of God. If we are not trying to live out God’s will we are being foolish. We need to discern and discover what God wants us to do, and this is not done by subjective feelings and impressions, it is done by diligent study and strong devotion. In order to know God’s will we have to know His Word (Romans 12:1-2).

His general will for all believers is first priority over and above any specific will He may have for our lives. That is the open and obvious fact. We need to be about the basics of the Christian life. God wants you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). He wants you to advance your faith by adding godly qualities. He wants you to serve others, witness to others, and be a contributing member in your local church community. He wants you to be about the business of prayer.

This takes time and commitment. You must make time for this before God elevates your personal priorities into the godly arena. You have enough time to do God’s will. If you don’t believe you have enough time to do God’s will, you are probably committing time to something God doesn’t want you to do, or you are omitting time from doing something God does want you to do. Perhaps you are doing the right thing but in the wrong way. It cannot be stressed enough that we are to live out God’s agenda, not try and get Him to sign onto ours.

1 Peter 5:8 tell us that Satan is seeking people to devour; one way he begins to devour you, your hopes, your dreams, your talent, your treasure, your testimony, your victory, is by devouring your time. Satan’s most effective lie is not “there is no heaven or hell” but “there is no hurry.” If you do not prioritize and make God’s Word and God’s work a vital part of your schedule, you will never do His will. Lesser things always become the enemy of the best thing. Charles Spurgeon said, “Discernment isn’t about knowing the difference between right and wrong but right and almost right”.

A lot of things won’t mean very much a million years from now, but what you did in the will of God for His glory will have eternal value. You need to have your values elevated to heavenly heights. To elevate God’s agenda is to be elevated in practice.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't let the Devil steal your Day

making the best use of the time, because the days are evil
(Ephesians 5:16 – ESV)

One of the things this verse is teaching us is that we need to properly exercise our discretionary time. Free time isn’t free for a slave of Christ; you don’t take time off from God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We must make the most of every opportunity. Paul challenges us to invest wisely, to be alert to all possibilities that come our way. In many versions this verse reads that we should be “redeeming the time”. The word “redeem” means “to buy up, to purchase”, or “to rescue from loss”. Think about it, rescue from loss, in other words, don’t let the devil steal your day. He is a thief and one way he steals from you is to steal your time. The word “time” used in this verse is not “chronos,” measurable in hours or minutes, but the word “kairos,” which means “opportunities” or “possibilities.” So the Bible is telling us to be “opportunity managers” (1 Peter 3:15). As we have said before if you mind your time your timing will improve.

Get rid of the time and opportunity wasters in your life. Many things in life are not necessarily wrong; they just aren’t necessary. They don’t build you up (1 Corinthians 10:23). We all need recreation and down time, but how we use our discretionary time defines who we are and what we become! Make your discretionary time useful and enriching. Learn to paint, read, or develop a musical talent, or some other new skill. You don’t have to be great at it to get an appreciation for it. You might find a new thing you love or a new purpose, one that can give glory to God and something that could change someone’s destiny somehow. How about devoting yourself to some real quality family time? This doesn’t mean simply sitting around watching TV together, that is a waste unless it is an enriching program, of which the vast majority aren’t. Train your brain or drain your brain. Those little, seemingly unimportant decisions you make every day are the reason you stay in your addiction, by the way.

Those who number their days carefully gain a wise heart (Psalm 90:12). However, it is not numbering them by the clock, but by the experience. Living requires time management, true, but not the kind that attempts to quarantine most of what makes life what it is: the mess, the surprises, the breakdowns, and the breakthroughs. Be looking for God to send someone by at the “wrong time”. Your agenda is never as important as God’s. Don’t overdo it, make the most of opportunities, but don’t be a super time manager at the expense of everything else. Plan for discretionary time, no flex time makes one an inflexible insufferable burden. Carve out time for others or they will carve your time from you.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Watch Your Step

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
(Ephesians 5:15 – ESV)

Have you ever wondered where all your time went? With so many things vying for our attention, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and fail to maintain our lives, let alone progress into any meaningful advancement. If you are going to be effective with your life, you must learn to be more selective with your life. You must manage your time, work with it and make it work for you, for God’s glory. The problem is not the clock or calendar but our use of what we have.

We can honor the time God has given us by searching our steps. This verse teaches us, among other things, that we must examine and evaluate the use of our time. We don’t all have the same amount of talent, or treasure, or timing (opportunity), but in each day, we all have the same amount of time. That being true, why do some people get more accomplished with theirs? It is mostly about proper stewardship. If you do well with your time you will find your timing will be improved. In other words, doors of opportunity will open up because you will now realize they are there. If you are not careful with your time, you will end up wasting it.

We can honor the time God has given us by watching our walk. Walking carefully, or circumspectly, is about more than your own walk. It is also about how others are seeing your walk. Colossians 4:5 – Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. If you walk carefully perhaps others will consider their walk more carefully. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). If not, your “liberty of conscience” may be the banana peel that causes someone to slip down the road to hell.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pastors and Personal Bible Studies

A minister in our church informed me that we have people who sometimes (very infrequently) come to our church but aren’t committed to church asking us if we will come to their house and have a “bible study” for some couple they have taken into their home. This answer could apply across a wide variety of similar situations.

I will not be able to make time for that study. I think that if “He” and “She” cannot commit to Sundays we would be too quick to just jump on their bandwagon when they have other issues. They have been gone for a long time, said they were back, were here one Sunday, then Friday for the special event, but were missing this past Sunday, and I guess we'll see about this Saturday and Sunday. I don't know these people, meaning whoever it is that is staying with them. Let them come to church, get “He” and “She” to be there for the evangelism studies the next two weeks, and then speak to them for themselves. To my mind, “He” and “She” will not be a very good witness so much until those whom they have with them can see the change in them, a lasting change. It is not that God cannot work with them as they are, of course He can, if they are actually saved themselves, but I don't see an opportunity here, I see a pitfall.

Trying to “work with them” will not bring them along; it will only keep them from actually making a commitment. We shouldn’t have to convince “He” and “She”, as they are supposed to be believers, but if they are convinced yet not committed, what good does it do to show up and go to bat for something they don’t actually believe? Is it the people who are staying with them, or “He” and “She” who need the bible study? I think the answer is “He” and “She”, and the truth is that they need to commit to the church before we capitulate to them. Not that they are trying to be deceptive, but that they are deceived. Why take the time necessary to do a personal bible study when we are not going to do that elsewhere? Yes it builds relationships, but “He” and “She” have a relationship with us already, and we have already been over there numerous times in the past to “help”, but they have just now “come back”. It is too soon to start giving more than they are willing to commit to. I think that Jesus would say, “Follow me”, and not accept their terms. “But it is about these other people”, you might say, but no it isn’t.

People want to get what they want without having to be a part of a group, but Christianity doesn’t work that way. We cannot look to fill felt, individual needs before they will “come to Christ”, they all have ONE need, and all we can do is show them that Christ is the answer to that need. We don’t need to try and get them to feel okay with making a commitment; we need them to be truly converted, and as scared as hell if they don’t.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 09, 2009


The church I pastor is about 50 miles from campus...we are definitely in Gator Country....and the Florida Gators are once again the national champions in college football...'nuff said...

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Disclosure and Discretion

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
(John 16:12 – ESV)

One thing that it seems I must learn over and over again is when to tell some people about certain issues, events, situations, and the like. Some people just cannot handle the news; they have to pass it around like it was a hot potato. Sometimes the news is better left unreported until a later time. Of course gossip is not good at all, but we are talking more along the lines of people whom take anything that might be said, anything someone else doesn’t know, and use it to prop up their own sense of self worth.

You know, they were there when it all went down, or they are always one of the first to know because they are important, or they are delivering news because they are up the food chain from the person they deliver it to, etc. They are always in the know, always at the scene, always in the mix, always where the action is, because they are always on top of it all, a frontrunner. This can be subtle or this can be obvious, but the people who purvey it rarely understand what they are doing. The most frustrating thing in the world for those who must always be in the know is to feel out of the loop. The problem is that people want to leave them out because they won’t leave anything in.

Again, we aren’t talking primarily about gossip, although these people are prime prey for its delivery. We are talking about people who have to be at every event just to say they were there. They might not even enjoy being at certain things, but they want anyone who would to know they were a part of it. Frontrunners offer full disclosure whether anyone wants it or not, and about things others wouldn’t even care about, but the person is only caring about themselves and their image. If other people would disclose what they felt about these people, they would have a hard time handling it, so others use discretion. Ironic isn’t it?

We must keep certain items from children because we don’t want to ruin their childhood. There are certain things that they just don’t need to know about yet. Peter said this about Paul’s writings, that some supposed teachers didn’t know how to properly handle the Word of God. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). Christ knew that the disciples couldn’t bear all that he had to yet reveal to them, and even some of the things He had revealed to them they didn’t understand until much later (John 2:22). It wouldn’t be a good idea if God let us know everything before hand. That would lead to chaos, not comfort, conviction, and constancy. He knows better than we do, and He lets us know, as we are able to handle it.

We as Christians sometimes need to learn to be more like God, like Christ, and learn to use discretion when talking to others. Some people just can’t handle it. Have you grown to where you can handle what is given you, or must you always run and tell everyone else without first using a little discretion? If not, no wonder that others use discretion before disclosing things to you. Don’t be a frontrunner; sit back and learn to discern when to open your mouth.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

60 Seconds (29)


In the January issue of the National Right To Life Committee, Inc., there appeared these ominous words, “January 22, 2009, marks the 36th anniversary of Roe versus Wade, the infamous Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy. As we cross into the new year, more than 50,000,000 innocent children will have lost their lives to abortion.” On average, 3,836 pre-born babies have been routinely eliminated every day for 36 years. To place this in perspective, this is more than eight times greater than the 6,000,000 Jews murdered by Hitler. Their names would fill the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall at least 800 times!

The Bible makes no distinction between babies in the womb and babies outside the womb. The word “brephos” is used in Luke 1:41 and 44 to refer to a baby living in the womb, using the phrase, “the babe.” In Luke 2:12, 16 and 18:15 – 17, the same word is used to refer to a baby living outside the womb, translated “babe” or “infants.” According to Thayers Greek English Lexicon, it means, “an unborn child, embryo, fetus; a newborn, an infant, a babe.” Protestant theologian Karl Barth wrote during the years of the Holocaust in Germany, “The unborn child is from the very first a child. It is still developing and has no independent life. But it is man and not a thing, nor a mere part of the mother’s body…he who destroys germinating life kills a man.”

The term abortion is not found in the Bible, however, numerous times the sanctity of life in the womb is proclaimed. Job declared, “Did You not …clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews?” (Job 10:10 and 11). In Psalm 119:73, we read, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me.” David wrote in Psalm 139:13, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” In Isaiah 49:1, we read of Christ, “The Lord has called Me from the womb; from the inward parts of My mother He has made mention of My name.” Scriptures also tell us that Jeremiah (1:5), John the Baptist (Luke 1:44), and the apostle Paul (Galatians 1:15), were known by God before they were born, and ordained to a specific calling while in their mothers’ wombs.

Dr. Howard Glicksman, M.D., a pro-life physician, was asked to speak at a gathering on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In his article, “A Doctor’s Perspective On Abortion,” he wrote, “As a pro-life physician it’s always seemed to me that the issue of abortion was pretty straightforward. So I wondered what I, as a physician, could say that hadn’t already been said. Did the people really need a doctor to tell them what every child learns in middle school biology - that the human body consists of trillions of cells, each of which contains 46 chromosomes made up of DNA; that this, our own personal combination of DNA makes us physically who we are, and provides us with a unique fingerprint of identification; that when the 23 chromosomes from the sperm of the human father join with the 23 chromosomes from the egg of the human mother, they form not the father nor the mother, but a unique and separate human being, known as human life.”

Former New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani described the nearly 3000 lost in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as “more than we can bear.” However, on a daily basis, abortion takes more lives than were lost in the September 11 tragedy. In Proverbs 6:16, we are warned, “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him,” and one of these is “hands that shed innocent blood.”

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Driving the Point Home

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,
(Titus 2:7 – ESV)

I used to deliver pizza, and you know what, I loved it. I never have looked down on those who do this job. Look, someone has to do it, and if you say “no they don’t”, well there are other jobs you could name that many people don’t want to do but they have to get done, like being a garbage man. All honest work has dignity and no child of God should treat another who is doing honest work with any less dignity than another who is doing something “more important”. None of our work in the Lord, and all of it is in the Lord if WE are in the Lord, none of this is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

It is not the work that makes it worthy of you it is you who brings dignity to the work and makes it worthy of your calling as a child of God. You are teaching others by your example, your life lives out your doctrine, whether you are working one of these jobs or you are talking about others who hold these jobs. Let me tell you that as a Christian you have no right to look down on the server at the restaurant you are eating at, and if you in your heart see it as “lesser” work, you are sinning.

Anyway, the funny thing is, before I was a pastor, I had actually been the owner of several pizza shops. However, in the meantime between owning the pizza shops and being a pastor, I was back in school learning about theology, and I was delivering pizza to help make ends meet.

Imagine, going from the owner to the driver. I was the owner in the big city, I worked for the company as a franchise rep, and I had stores all over the state, but now I was doing “lesser work”. Worse yet, I had become the driver back in the town I grew up in. Imagine what it was like to ring the doorbell, and have someone you went to school with (who was not an honor grad, popular, athletic and such as you were, but now makes a six figure salary) say "oh, so this is what you're doing now" after having been the hotshot growing up.

After giving out the "I'm getting my Masters, I'm an associate pastor" spiel 100 times, I finally realized that God was teaching me humility, and I loved every minute of it after that, and learned as much there about the practical outworking of my theology (no kidding) as I did on my thesis.

Let me give you a humorous example of what I am talking about.

We had this customer who never, ever tipped, was rude, took minutes to answer the door, and I always seemed to get her. Well, one night I got the order, went to the door, and after I knocked, I noticed a penny on the ground. Immediately, I went into this song and dance about how she was going to tip me now no matter what 'cause God gave me a penny! I literally was dancing around, making up a ridiculous song in my head about it, and feeling all good, and then she came to the door, several minutes later.

I told her the total...12.79...she started handing me the lumps of change like she always I counted, I thought to myself, "too bad lady, 'cause you are tipping me whether you like it or not, ha ha!"

Suddenly the money was all counted, and.....she had 12.78! She asked if it was alright that she was missing "just a penny". I am no overt mystic, but I am telling you I could hear God laughing as loud as thunder during a storm! I felt like one of those cartoons whose head turns into a "donkey", and then back again.

Then I laughed too; I learned something very valuable that night.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 02, 2009

God’s New Year’s Resolution

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 – ESV)

Upon each New Year we often think ahead about what will happen in the world in general, and in our own slice of the world. We think about what we might like to get accomplished in the coming months. To that end we try and “resolve” to do something we feel would be good for us or others in the coming year. About 45-50% of people make “New Year’s Resolutions”; everyone at some time has, and even when you say you won’t you just resolved not to do it!

Yet even with so many making these resolutions, they rarely ever “stick”. Research over the years has concluded that about 80% of all New Year’s Resolutions are broken by the end of January. Of resolutions having to do with health and fitness, 90% will be broken by the middle of January. By the end of the year, less than 5% will have kept their resolutions. Articles are written every year to help us keep our goals intact this year, finally.

Why do we make them? We want to make ourselves better. Why do they fail? For many and various reasons, but as a Christian, I want you to think about something. Too often, resolutions are about our will but we are supposed to be concerned with God’s will. We are trying to triumph over our own selves when we should be advancing in the grace that has us submitting our will to God. We might think that by making resolutions we are doing this, and that in this or that way is where we would like to see God move this next year. But is that where God wants to move this year? When it becomes obvious during the year, during each day where He is trying to shape us, do we still have the will, or does He control it? It is God who controls the situations, not we, and to try and control every situation is to be controlled by every situation. Think about it in the context of the following verses from that most practical of books, James 4:13-17:

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t make “resolutions”, not at all, as we consider the opening verse of this post. However, we must consider more carefully our motives. We cannot simply say I’m going to do this or that; we may want to “do” something but the “source” and the “motive” are most important. You cannot just tack on “I’m doing it for Jesus” because you think that is the right answer. That would be just like those little prayers that someone who feels guilty at the moment says but doesn’t really mean; it is man power not God’s power doing that. Did you ask God what He wanted you to do for this New Year? You can be sure that through your experiences this year that He will let you know (if you are truly listening) what He would like you to be doing. As in stop speeding your car when you get caught again.

The truth is that we can say we want something “For His glory” and still have mostly selfish motives. Do you know why this or that would give Him glory? Even if it is a good thing that would glorify Him, do you want that thing to change so that it will satisfy you more than wanting it to glorify Him? Check yourself. Oswald Chambers said, “You cannot sanctify to God that with which you aim to satisfy yourself”. Let us look at a few verses and apply them to this context.

Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 19:12-14 – Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 51:6 – Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

He will lead you and you must follow, and you know this to be true, He puts you in situations to let you know where your faith is. Stopping sin in its tracks is well, of course, but we often want only to be rid of embarrassing things rather than root causes which will pop up in some other form unless dealt with. We too often want to treat the symptom instead of God bringing the cure. Instead of wanting to get rid of that glaring sin, how about the sin no one sees, which may very well be the reason you stay in this other, more gross and overt sin, because if you were not, you would be swelled up with pride, perhaps, and so you must be kept down lest you become spoiled in your gifts. God will lead you to this end, but you must submit when the opportunities present themselves. In this way you will know Gods’ power, as you submit, and work out your salvation with fear and trembling, and see that it is indeed He who is working both to will and to do of His good pleasure in conforming you to Christ. Renew your mind around these meditations.

We make New Year’s Resolutions because we think we want to “turn over a new leaf”, but as Christians we have already turned ourselves over to Christ, and sometimes our efforts at turning over a new leaf are just as if it was Adam and Eve turning over their fig leafs! It isn’t what we really need, and it is works righteousness, when what we need is to live in the grace and godliness that God Himself provides and directs us to as we submit to Him through our experience. This is not willpower but living God’s will.

Let me give you another example. Your resolution might be to lose weight, and you may even have reasoned that it would give God glory because it is taking better care of the body He has given you. It will give you more energy to witness more or whatever, and it will stop your gluttony. This can be good of course, but we ought not to avoid those other things that keep popping up in places we should submit but never have. This is where God is obviously leading, He wants us to do right in those areas, and we keep seeing opportunities to submit and obey, but we want our agenda first. It would be even better if you paid attention to what God is bringing your way this week as you get caught once again for speeding, or someone reminds you that they haven’t talked to you in a while or seen you at church, or your friend or relative comes to mind for you to pray for, etc. Our resolution should be to submit. Do you see what I mean now?

Our New Year’s Resolution should center on asking God that in His grace we would submit to His will more as it appears before us. That we would trust Him, and instead of trying to make ourselves into some type of thing we think God would be pleased with, we would actually start becoming it by following where He is leading. Again, I am not saying we shouldn’t make resolutions, but I am saying we should pay attention to what God puts on our plate and not avoid that thing as if our agenda is more important. “No God, not that, do this” is in effect what we are saying. Perhaps, instead of telling God in what areas we would like molded, we would ask that we might submit to His molding process this year.

Each morning, ask for wisdom (James 1:5). “Father, give me the grace to realize opportunities to be submitted to your will this day, in Jesus name”, and then expect opportunities. It is submitting to God’s plan as revealed in time by circumstances presenting themselves to you.

Then the question is do you have faith? Our problem is that we just don’t want to be vulnerable; we cover it all up. All this does is delay the divine directive. Instead, the more we submit to it the more we will see it work. Yes we are to be willing and intentional about killing off sin, but we must remember, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31), and He is the one who brings us to battle. Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26). Stop trying to fit yourself into the mold you think Jesus will be pleased with, and start letting it happen for real. After all, it is Jesus who tells us to take up our cross and follow Him, not the other way around.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 01, 2009

60 Seconds (28)



Sing in the shower – Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated – Watch a sunrise at least once a year – Leave the toilet seat in the down position – Never refuse homemade brownies – Strive for excellence, not perfection – Plant a tree on your birthday – Learn three clean jokes – Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full – Compliment three people everyday – Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them – Resist the temptation to praise yourself – Don’t boast about tomorrow – Leave everything a little better than you found it – Keep it simple – Think big thoughts but relish small treasures – Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know – Floss your teeth – Ask for a raise when you feel you have earned it – Be forgiving of yourself and others – Overtip breakfast waitresses – Say ‘thank you’ a lot – Say ‘please’ a lot – Avoid negative people – Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards – Wear polished shoes – Return your phone calls and emails promptly – Remember other people’s birthdays – Commit yourself to constant improvement – Carry jumper cables in your trunk – Be a good listener – When asked for help, be available, whether a menial or very important thing -- Have a firm handshake – Send lots of Valentine cards. Sign them, ‘Someone who thinks you are terrific’ – Look people in the eye – Be the first to say, ‘Hello’ – Use the good silver – Return all things you borrow – Make new friends but cherish the old ones – Keep secrets – Sing in a choir – Plant flowers every spring – Have a pet – Always accept an outstretched hand – Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life -- Wave at kids on school busses – Be there when people need you – Feed a stranger’s expired parking meter – Do not expect life to be fair – Never underestimate the power of love – Do a kind deed for no reason at all – Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation – Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I made a mistake’ – Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know’ – Compliment even small improvements – Keep your promises (no matter what) – Marry only for love – Rekindle old friendships – Count your blessings – Take time to encourage others --Call your parent(s).


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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©