Friday, May 29, 2009

Redeeming or Dreaming? (with audio)


…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…
(1 Corinthians 1:2 – NIV)

We are called to holiness, or wholly otherness, so that our lives will match our testimony. We are called out individually, but also corporately. Individually, when the chips are down, our lives will be different than others, and our testimony will bear weight. We are saints in position, but we need to act like saints in condition.

Corporately, we will see the power of God demonstrated when we lean on Him instead of the arm of the flesh through partnering with the world. We are not only to proclaim, but also to live out the truth of the gospel, not complain, and live out our pitiful use of the gospel. The gospel has the power we need individually, and corporately. We need holy gladness and holy boldness. We need courage and conviction that God is enough.

We are to bring the message, to speak and to live the message out (Philippians 2:15), not have unbelievers come in with their message so that we can then give them ours. Our credibility is in godly living, not worldly appeal. We seem to have this feeling in the Church today that we need to beg them to come and do everything like the world, we have to entertain them to get them to come in, and now the church looks just like the world, only with baptized “Christian” terminology, like so-called “Christian yoga”.

The truth is that so-called Christians today will do anything and just put the tag of “for God”, or “for Jesus”, on it and somehow this is supposed to baptize it into sanctity. The problem is that we are alienated from the life of God by the hardness of our hearts (Ephesians 4:17-18). We are not broken by our sin, and we feel like it is our right and amazingly we call darkness light and say it is our responsibility to redeem the culture by becoming like it. Blasphemy! Titus 1:16 and 2:11-12 apply here.

This is exactly what we are seeing these days. The truth is that the worldly fascination proves that they have not been BROKEN by their sin, they are self-ish, and what they want is a Jesus who will let them cling to Him while still clinging to their old man and his ways. "Christian homosexuals", "Christian Goth", “Christian nudist camps”, “Christian raves” etc; it is all about "redeeming it for Christ", they say. If the tree is bad, so will the fruit be.

What we need is new life, not our best life now, including all those goodies we won't leave behind. They defiantly will not listen, and claim that they belong to Christ because they are not broken, again I say. The true gospel offends people, and makes them count the cost. This reminds me of what goes on in Hindu countries, where you evangelize; they say that they want Jesus, but only to add Him to their pantheon of gods. Here in Laodicea, we want Jesus plus our entertainment...The gospel cannot be partnered with the world (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, May 28, 2009

God's Guarantee (with audio)


…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6 – ESV)

Paul was thanking the church at Philippi, and he was letting them know he had prayed for them, was praying for them, and would be praying for them. Looking at these first few verses in this chapter, we see that Paul’s thankful, he’s praying, he’s joyful, things are happening and God is guaranteeing results. This is what had been happening, now Paul turns to what he is praying for and because of God’s guarantee it is what would be happening.

He’s got them fervently on his heart; they are partaking in the abundant grace Paul was receiving and vice versa. They were together growing in persecution and the proclamation and power of God and Paul had loved them as Christ loved them. He was growing in that love, and they were helping their Apostle grow in that grace by what was happening to them. And so Paul is praying for an increase in love, knowledge and discernment so that they could do and know and have excellent things and be pure and holy and full of righteousness. God was doing it and would continue to do it to the praise of His glory.

This was a church that had done well, and had come on some hard times, but one that Paul was praying for, and it was a church that had a guarantee, and so do we. We are not yet perfected but we are becoming perfected (Hebrews 5:8-11). We learn to obey more completely. Let me give some individual as well as corporate application for you right now.

Our Christianity is mirrored buy our relationships in this way. Most think only about starting out great, but then there is the inevitable slide, but if they knew the process they would see it as the stairs not the slide. You don’t start at the top you climb up, and Jesus gives you the power, do you believe it or not? Most think it is about starting out on top and trying hard to stay there, but that isn’t the way God works.

Most think the stairs are the slide, and then when they slide down too far they leave. Instead we should be becoming more and more dynamic, able to survive, but more than that, to thrive as we get better and not have to avoid but endure and secure through and because of problems. This is a totally different mindset and that I say is the mind of Christ, Paul says let this mind also be in you.

The church at Philippi was under heavy persecution from without and from within. It is not about never having issues or problems, other wise you could never grow at all. That would simply be the avoidance of real issues. We are to act in accordance not in avoidance. No one, no relationship, no earthly thing starts or ever is perfect, but mature things will work their way through things. It isn’t that it is always okay, it is whenever it isn’t it ends up okay anyway, and we see each other as stronger, we grow together as individuals and as a union. These things are not stumbling blocks they are stepping-stones.

They are growing this is what Paul is describing as what was happening to them what he was praying for them and what God has guaranteed them. Jesus said, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. God always finishes what He starts.

His guarantee doesn’t mean we will always get things the way we want them, it but it does mean we will get things the way we truly need them.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will never hurt, but it does mean that He will ultimately heal.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we won’t ever lose any members, but it does mean that we will press on and God will add to us such as are being saved.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will have no struggles, but it does mean that we will be more than conquerors.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will win every battle, but it does mean that He will cause us always to triumph.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that you will never feel lonely, but it does mean that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

His guarantee doesn’t mean that we will never stray, but it does mean that we will always find the way home.

In the most important sense, you cannot ultimately fail if you know Jesus Christ and trust your eternal soul to Him. If you call on Christ today you will succeed, you will survive, you will be sanctified, and you will be saved: guaranteed.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

To the Letter (with audio)


But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
(Luke 10:29)

The parable of the Good Samaritan has been taught on countless times, and it has much to show us with regards to the presumption of faith. There are several things that we need to point out here. First, the lawyer obviously had the wrong motive for asking Jesus this question anyway, as it says he tempted him and that he wished to justify himself.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss yourself from this aspect of the passage, however. Many times we presume upon what God means by the law, pouring our own righteousness into it. We also may at times question the rightness of what God seems to be saying, or twist the text to mean something it doesn’t by trying to read into it, like this lawyer was doing. This lawyer, in trying to justify himself, sought an exact meaning of “neighbor”, so as to have a formula for righteousness.

Imagine him at the judgment: “But I loved my neighbor, just like you said to; I followed your commands to the letter”. Of course, this shows that what he was really trying to do was get a license to be able to love only those he must in order to inherit eternal life, and to necessarily exclude all others, at his personal discretion. Again, we see the results of trying to develop an exact method using the scriptures in an overly literal, all encompassing way.

Think about the child whose mother tells her that she cannot ride her bike to the park; she goes anyway, and when her mother scolds her, she cries, “I didn’t ride my bike, I walked”. Can you see how childish and utterly ridiculous this lawyer is being in this passage now?

Still, we see that today many have not taken this lesson from Jesus. They will take one or a few verses, and then dogmatically assert that this is the prescription for righteousness, instead of comparing these verses with others, using the clear, overall teaching of the Bible as a guide. All this is doing is the same thing the lawyer (and all religions apart from true Christianity) was attempting: to bring a measure of works to the kingdom of God. Christians have been deceived into jumping through spiritual hoops. Place your faith in Christ alone as your hope, not only of salvation, but also of sanctification. Only a justified sinner can battle effectively against sin. Overcoming sin comes from a relationship not for a relationship.

Salvation is not a process, where we do this, then achieve that type of deal. There is no must do order of salvation, it is of grace alone. This does not mean that we will not do these things that are evident in a true Christian life. Yes, we repent, get baptized in water, read our Bibles, pray, and pursue sanctification. But these are measures of obedience, not means of saving grace. These things are a result of salvation, not a requirement for it.

This fact points beautifully to the next aspect of Christ’s teaching here in this parable: the idea of duty. By showing us the priest and the Levite specifically, Christ was definitely trying to convey something even more than the fact that being a neighbor means more than your own kind.

Imagine the priest; he was on his way to the service; he had no time to help; he was already going to go help his parishioners, and there were hundreds of them, not just one man. Besides, how can he be expected to care for everyone he came across that needed help, he had his own flock to care for, and God put him in charge of these people, so God would want him to take care of his own? He had a prior commitment: there will always be people that need help; his job was to help those already entrusted into his care. Christ is putting his second commandment above prior duty. Those parishioners will still be there; this man may have died, and he needed help immediately.

Imagine the Levite; he was heading to the temple; no way could he touch this man, he had consecrated himself. The temple service he was going to happened only once a year; God would be furious if he defiled his hands just to help one soul, he was sacrificing for the sins of a whole community. Again, obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), and Jesus destroys the self-righteous lawyer’s, and many believers’ attitude.

Never are we to presume that we have the right way; we must continue to seek God, not trust in our own inventions, justified by our own pathetic knowledge of God gained by scripture twisting. Duty and prior commitment, even about church matters, can be no excuse to ignore the calling by God to demonstrate Christ-likeness.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Worldwide Ministry (with audio)


…among all the nations…
(Romans 1:5 – ESV)

The Gospel is for all people (1 John 2:2 / Revelation 7:9), not just Jews but Gentiles as well, not just men but women and children, not just whites, but blacks, browns, yellows, reds and anyone and everyone else who calls on Jesus to save them (Galatians 3:26-28 / Colossians 3:11).

In context this is also Paul telling us that he had received an apostleship that was to be world wide, he knew his mission was to be obedient to the vision no matter what (Acts 20:22-21:14). Paul was to show the crucified with Christ life in all the nations of the known world.

We apply this by saying that through Jesus Christ and only through Him we receive grace for everything we need to be obedient to the faith anywhere and everywhere we go. Our mission is also “world-wide”, we are to live the gospel throughout our world to all the people we encounter or whom see us in action.

Your ministry, no matter how big it gets, will ever have a chance to be as effective, in terms of percentage of people reached, as it is right now. Think about it. If you were on television throughout the whole world, and were able to reach a billion people, how many would actually be tuning in? Even if half of those people watched, which is a near impossibility, this would only represent 50% of the people you could reach being reached with the gospel. However, in your little world, right now, you can live and speak out the gospel to every single person you ever come across – in other words 100% of the people you could reach, you can. There is a lot to be said for that sort of spiritual economy.

People want a big ministry, one that is world wide, but it must start with your own world now. If you are faithful in this world, perhaps God will expand your borders, but how can He trust you with more if you will not be faithful in a little? You must live prophetically, as if your ministry is worldwide right now, because in truth, it is; you never know the reach of God through what you do right here in your little arena.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, May 25, 2009

Use All the Tools (with audio)


…but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue.
(Exodus 4:10)

Play to your strengths, says the world, and by “the world” we mean not only the secular world, but the church world as well. We try and make up for our lack of tools, not ones that we think we don’t have, but ones we think aren’t good enough to use. Instead of learning to use them more effectively and maximizing their use, we relegate them to the bottom of the toolbox, hoping no one will have to see them. We overcompensate and underestimate what God is trying to do with us as preacher, leader, layman, husband, wife, employee, and so on.

Lets put this in the context of the preacher first. It is like the preacher who may have the right message but delivers it with no passion at all, because he is “just not into that sort of thing”. Or like the preacher who can rev up the engine, but who spends no time in the study. Content and delivery, you can have both, it is much harder, but a preacher with no passion in his voice is patently ridiculous in this day and age. Yes, it makes a difference today, and it should. It might not have back then, but today it does, and yes, it really bothers and bores people to hear someone read the bible in a choppy, no inflection, monotone, metronome way.

The passion rises up out of the preacher when he is most passionate about God. When the preacher prizes God most, the passion about it comes out. The great preachers of today wouldn't hold my interest as much as they do if they had a passionless voice and staid delivery, no matter how good the words were. You can and you must have both content and delivery power.

Of course we must realize that God's Spirit can and will work through non-passionate, monotone preaching. Meaning, IF (not that a preacher should) a preacher/missionary was NOT a great non-monotone teacher, God's Spirit could work through his words regardless. The Spirit can and often does, but it is in spite of not because of their style, and vice versa, of course.

This is simply a matter of preference, mostly, but for many, they ought to give heed to their delivery. We often have this tool in the box but fail to sharpen it because, sinfully, we compare our gift to someone else's, and think it less, and so being prideful we don't share what we have. I may never have the exegetical prowess of John Calvin, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do exegesis (God forbid!)...

Moses said his voice wasn’t good enough, but God asked him just who did he think made that mouth of his? You may not have the voice of a great singer, but God made your voice, so sing out loud the praises of His name. No matter what it sounds like to others, it sounds wonderful to Him, exactly as He designed it to be. You may not be able to do something as well as the next guy, but work at it, strive to be excellent for the glory of God and He will reward your diligence.

Using all the tools is being as God would have you to be, like Him. Think about it. God uses all the tools; some are more gifted speakers but God uses less gifted ones, some are more gifted in this or that area but God uses less gifted ones as well. How many times have you heard or seen someone with all their sophisticated argumentation, sincere pleading, and scriptural knowledge try and get someone to come to Christ, and then some supposed half wit talks to them once and they immediately fall to their knees in submission to Jesus?

God uses all the tools. So should you.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, May 22, 2009

Defeated and Discontented (with audio)


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Romans 1:7)

Beloved of God – you are pleasing to God but you need to exercise your faith for it to manifest in your life (Ephesians 1:6 / Colossians 3:12 / Hebrews 11:6). God is not against you for your sins, He is for you against your sins. We are not at war with God (Romans 5:1), so we need to get on the right side of the battle. You don’t have to do things to get Him to love you and to bless you. In faith you are pleasing to God, and He wants to please you, you just need to get with the program. You can’t be fed lunch when you aren’t in the lunch line, stop complaining about being hungry and get in line.

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). You have got to keep on keeping on, and give thanks to God no matter what (Job 13:15). You have got to “pray through” (Daniel 9:2-19). Don’t let the world, the flesh, and the devil steal your blessing (Mark 4). You hear the message, you know it is for you, you believe it, you receive it with joy, and then you go home and let it all slip away. Keep watching and keep praying (1 Peter 4:7).

Preachers, we need to be more concerned about what happens to our people after they leave the building, not just how excited they get when they are in the building. We need to teach people not only how to get it, but how to keep it. Continue in prayer, and abound in thanksgiving.

Abounding in thanksgiving means to be giving thanks a lot, but also that you will abound when you are in a continuously thankful attitude (Colossians 2:7). Remember the old hymn, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. This is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 5:18)! A.W. Tozer said that God wants to please you, but He will not do it if it will spoil you. We are beloved yet still discontent, and we are not ready for God’s blessing (Hebrews 13:5).

Proverbs 30:15-16 / Proverbs 27:20 – There are two sorts of discontentment, one good, and one very, very bad. There is spiritual discontentment and there is carnal discontentment. The heart of a carnally discontent person is comfortless. Wherever he goes, his ever-increasing misery goes with him. It is hell on earth. The flesh is a raging fire that will never be satisfied. The carnal nature can never be satisfied, if you are discontent, you are living out of your flesh. Our contentment must be in God (Colossians 3:3), or we will be discontent. Philippians 2:3-15 – Jesus was able to give up heaven and take on flesh because He was content in God.

James 4:1-2 – discontent originates in self. Self is the assertive principle in this agony of wars, fighting and murders. It is ‘your lusts that war . . .’ Self gives birth to carnal discontentment. This is always the case; there is no exception.

Psalm 127:2 (ESV) – It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Don’t be so anxious (Philippians 4:6).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Disclosure and Discretion (with audio)


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, May 20, 2009

Deity Demonstrated (with audio)


This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
(Romans 3:25b – ESV)

With the text of Romans 3:25-26, when we start with a man centered, “what’s it mean to us” then we cannot appreciate the “what this means about God” aspect. God put Jesus on the cross to demonstrate His own righteousness, which is what the text declares as primary.

In this passage Paul’s emphasis is not so much on the righteousness that God has provided in Christ as the righteousness that God has demonstrated through Christ. This distinction may seem subtle, but it is one of great significance. Our minds like to avoid this truth, and we much rather focus on what He has done "for" us. It is too easy to fall into the trap of sentimental thinking about the Gospel, and we need to be reminded that the love of God makes absolutely no sense apart from the wrath of God. Take away the latter, and all you have is the image of a kindly old man who wouldn't hurt a fly, much less punish sinners, and then we start thinking that maybe our own sins really aren't that bad. We cheapen His love by downplaying His wrath.

When we choose to look at salvation from a merely human perspective, we see salvation from the standpoint of what it does for us. God becomes the One who “meets our needs.” While salvation does do something for us, and God does meet our needs, the focus is wrong. Paul portrays this passage from the divine point of view, fixing our attention on God’s purpose for saving men: the demonstration of His righteousness. If you can see this, you will see the value of a God entranced worldview, not one where we say it but we actually have it, and we can see with God’s eyes, and we will begin to learn the value of God, not simply as someone who gives us the treasure of forgiveness, but as the very treasure itself.

The death of Christ proved God’s righteousness. Hebrews 9:15,26 – in His forbearance He passed over the former sins, made during and before the old covenant, knowing justice would be served by a new covenant. People just want God to pardon but that doesn’t demonstrate His righteousness. That would be saying that sins are really no big deal to God, and it would also mean that offending God and despising Him isn’t all that important. The sins are real and they must be paid for, and yet God seemingly overlooked them before. The problem in God's passing over sin (which the natural mind does not grasp) is that God's worth and glory and righteousness have been despised, and passing over it makes him look cheap. God would be unrighteous if He passed over sins as though the value of His glory were nothing.

God’s worth and His name are dishonored by our sins, but He vindicated His glory by slaying His Son. That is how valuable His glory is and how awful sin really is and what it requires. It is not that we were worth it, that we were worth saving, but that God’s glory was worth vindicating, and that Christ was the only payment that could satisfy the justice of God for us offending and despising His glory. That is what sin is, falling short of and devaluing God’s glory. We have done violence to the throne of God. That is why hell must last forever because you can never pay it back, your worth is nothing compared to His, no amount of penance can offset the terrible injustice you have done against the infinite worth of God.

This is all about the value of God not the value of man, how much He is worth not how much we are worth. Now we square this with John 3:16 by saying that His love for us is so great that He paid the only way it could be done. God, out of His love and justice, renders Himself favorable to us by His own action. He suffers the ultimate offense and yet He takes on the punishment for that Himself. He passed over sins before Christ because He knew the plan, it was the plan all along, and that is why He could wait until it was the right time (Galatians 4:4).

Did Jesus really have to die to pay for our sins? We say, “Certainly we’ve done bad things, but what we’ve done isn’t so bad that a merciful God can’t overlook our failings.” We are wrong on two counts. First, what we have done IS so bad, that we cannot even begin to fathom how horrible it is. Second, God cannot overlook, He cannot wave His hand and let bygones be bygones. He may freely forgive us, but He Himself must bear the cost.

The wrath of God had to be satisfied. God could not simply overlook sin; it had to be judged. And so God provided men with salvation in such a way that He demonstrated His righteousness and satisfied His wrath, all at the same time. God’s forgiveness costs something, He freely forgives but it cost Him something. It is the heart of the good news...a bloody yet beautiful thing that proves God's worth, not ours...

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dead Men Can Dance (with audio)


How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God…
(Genesis 28:17)

The modern versions of the Bible use the word awesome where the King James Version uses the word dreadful, and the old rendering gives a better sense, in a sense, because the majesty of God is indeed a dreadfully awesome thing. Think of Isaiah 6, or the many angelic encounters we see recorded in scripture. When faced with the hosts of heaven, men fall to their knees in worship, reverence, or just plain fear, and probably a combination of all three.

However, in our churches today, we have replaced the majesty of God for the marvels of the world. We have all the latest technology, sound equipment, you name it, we are as state-of-the-art as any amusement park out there, in some respects, and certainly as powerful as any theater, in many cases. Now using technology and visual, audio, etc. is not in itself a bad thing, only if it distracts from the real reasons we are to be at church. Too many have been blindsided by the spectacle and not awed by the holiness, the otherworldliness, and instead have met only the majesty of the worldliness we can muster up. Today many could be in the presence of God but like Jacob they would not know it (vs.16). We have taken things that the world would call “awesome” and have Christianized or baptized them into sanctity. But they are merely spectacular in a worldly sense. They would say “awesome” to its worldly counterpart as well.

So what is the net effect? They liked the experience but they could get that anywhere. They didn’t experience God they had a sensory overload, a soulish delight, not a spiritual awakening or enlightenment. What we need is not bigger and better versions of the world’s diversions we need something that the world cannot duplicate. We need the honest to goodness real thing, the presence of God in our midst. A holy fear of God among us is the fruit of such an encounter, and the response not “wow how cool was that” but “wow what a fool I’ve been”.

It is a matter of emphasis and priority. The emphasis is on entertainment instead of ministry. The priority is on the fun of fellowship instead of the exhortation and encouragement. Hebrews 10:24 says we are to stir each other up to love and good works in the assembly, not stir ourselves up to laughter and enjoyment as our key to building each other up. Instead of just accepting the world’s culture we need to line them up, learn them up, and lift them up (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

When we have special events that aren’t as focused on the proclamation of the Word, these things are not necessarily bad. But ask yourself why we have more people attend, especially those people who don’t normally “do church”? Of course some na├»ve minister or immature congregant will tell you, “Oh we should do this all the time, we get people who otherwise wouldn’t be here”. That is the point, they will come if it is entertaining, but if it is seeking God’s face in worship they want no part of it. They want a safe place but not a sanctified one. They act Christian without conviction. They can praise but they can’t truly worship.

We think that we can play the worlds songs with just a little Christian tuning up and things will be all right. It seems to work, doesn’t it? Well, we think that just because we get them coming to us, just because we get them moving with us, and just because they begin to act like us that we have converted them, but only God converts, friend. They may be active with their flesh but in their spirits they are still dead men. You see, we could even have them dancing in the aisles, but when the tune is on the same frequency as the world, even dead men can dance.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, May 18, 2009

Come On In! (with audio)


Neither give place to the devil
(Ephesians 4:27)

Is all sin the same? No, when Jesus said that to even so much as look at a woman with lust is adultery, He wasn’t saying that you might as well go ahead and do it. You have to have the sin in your heart and mind before you do it in action, but to add the act adds more sin. See?

There's a difference in degree (seriousness), a difference in progression (how far the sin has gone), and a difference in consequences. All sin has been paid for and all sin is damning, but different sins have different temporal consequences.

People often miss the point about the consequences of sin. The simplistic notion that to make more of a deal over some sins than others is somehow wrong reveals ignorance instead of a more mature understanding of the heinousness of all sin, whatever its kind.

Some sins are worse than others. Yes they are. They are worse in what they do. They wreck you faster and more completely. They damage others more severely. They reach out further and make it harder for you to come back to God. Oh, His hand isn’t so short it cannot save you, but the further you are away, the more it is going to hurt you to get back, that is for sure.

How many people are leaving the door open for the devil? Many, but how many are assigning him a permanent place at the dinner table? It is a different question, and I want to give an example for us to think about.

People are trying to convince themselves that living together, as an unwed couple, is the same as any other sin. Well, it is the same in THAT it is a sin, and it is the same in that it is the same as some OTHER types of sin, but it is NOT the same as any old sin. It has much more disastrous consequences than many people realize or are willing to admit. Staying in sin is much worse than playing with sin. Yes any sin is bad, but inviting it to stay is like inviting the devil to come in through an always-open door.

There is a difference between continuing to make bad choices, falling back and repenting, etc., and having ONE choice to make but refusing to do it, like the difference between someone who is trying to overcome homosexuality and the person who won’t move out of the house from his gay lover, and the person who marches in the gay pride parade, actively promoting it. Homosexuality isn’t the issue with this missive, however, cohabitation is.

Fornication is wrong, of course. However, moving in with and then continuing to live with a sexual partner, as an unmarried couple, is outright rebellion. It is open warfare and it is different. You are leaving the door open for Satan 24/7 while in that state. At least the fornicator who is trying to repent isn’t in that state at all times, they keep making bad choices and letting the devil in. The outright rebel who only needs to make the one choice is always in their state; they always have the devil right there. They are always leaving the light on for Satan to come on in. The person who slips falls into a snare the person who sits is living in one continually and likes it.

There is a difference, a BIG difference between someone who falls into a snare and someone who dwells in the den. The person struggling with sin is leaving God’s table and eating the world’s food. The person who stays in the house of sin is having the devil over for dinner every night, with a permanent place at the table.

Whenever we sin, we are in danger of allowing the devil to get a foothold. If it continues and forms into a habit, that foothold becomes a stronghold. Those that fall into habitual sin are battling against a stronghold that the devil has gotten in their lives, and they keep fortifying it by their sin. That stronghold becomes a fortress. In our scenario, where some live as an unmarried couple, they move into the fortress itself, and they are paying the devil for the mortgage. You might as well put a sign on the front door that says, “welcome to the devil’s place”…

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, May 15, 2009

Christian Success (with audio)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Principles for Christian Prudence (with audio)


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

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

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

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

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

Principle #1 –
MasteryWill This Bring Me Into Bondage? 1 Corinthians 6:12
Ephesians 4:27 / Romans 13:14 / 2 Peter 2:19 / Titus 1:15-16, 2:11-12

Principle #2 –
MoralityWill This Defile God’s Temple? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Psalm 101:3 / 2 Corinthians 7:1 / 2 Corinthians 10:12

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

Principle #3 –
MaturityWill This Cause Anyone To Stumble? 1 Corinthians 8:8-9
Romans 14:20-21 / Philippians 2:3-4 / Romans 12:10

Principle #4 –
MinistryWill This Edify Me And/Or Others? 1 Corinthians 10:23
Galatians 5:22-23 / Ephesians 4:29 / 1 Peter 4:10-11 – Don’t be pugnacious with our liberty

Principle #5 –
Mind Will This Violate My Conscience? 1 Corinthians 10:25-29
Romans 14:23 – Some things that will tempt me will not tempt others / James 4:17

Principle #6 –
MagnifyWill This Bring Glory To God? 1 Corinthians 10:31
Ephesians 5:15-20 / Colossians 3:17,23 / 1 Timothy 4:4-5

Principle #7 –
MissionWill This Hurt My Witness? 1 Corinthians 10:32-33
Matthew 5:16 / 1 Thessalonians 5:22 / Ephesians 5:3-8 / Philippians 2:15 / Colossians 4:5

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

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Christ the Convertible? (with audio)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chocolate Milk (with audio)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©