Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Church of the Living Dead (with audio)


…but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
(John 12:24)

There has always been a lot of talk by people about leaving, visiting, or experiencing a so-called “dead” church. To most, I suppose what they mean by “dead church” would be that it was cold and formal. When people say it’s a dead church they mean that it feels dead. This could be true, and as the venerable Jonathan Edwards said, you have to have both heat and light.

However, lets consider the other side, because I have seen just as many churches that are just as dead and yet have a whole lot of buzz about them. You know, they even have a buzz conference these days. They may have a lot of hype but no holiness, a lot of passion, but no power. So to me a dead church can look like a really lively one, for sure.

Today we have the church of the upwardly mobile, the church where everybody is somebody, the church where you can become the best you that you can be, and we even have a laughing church or two out there. We have the liberated church, the empowered church, the militant church, and the dead churches. I would put all of the above in the last category.

Today what we need is for people to be on fire for the gospel, but what we see are just more and more programs, promotions, politics, and purpose. We may have passion, but we don’t have any real power, because we lack purity (fuel): where there is no fuel the fire dies out. Flash fires, flash paper, and the flash in the pan all fade. Soon enough a fire that doesn't have real fuel dies out, and often gets replaced by a false fire built on feelings, fellowship, or flurry. People try and live off the fumes of a faded fire, and that, friends, is a dead church. Too many preachers in the pulpit and people in the pews are confusing anointing with adrenaline, and the busyness of man with the business of God.

A pastor in Illinois said something like this. “The modern day church looks exactly like a community service organization, like the YMCA. I love the Y, but I would not say I love the ministry of the Y. It is a health club, a safe place for families, and a place to go to have fun. The YMCA boasts having introduced millions of people to sports. One of their themes, “It’s more than a gym, it’s a community,” sounds a bit like the theme of the modern day church. Go to www.YMCA.net and view their website and compare it with most church websites. They are almost identical. Sadly, the modern day church has a lot in common with the YMCA.”

“Pastors who want to build churches by attracting people through programs and that sort of community, the YMCA could use your help. No one would say the YMCA functions like a church, but we can say many churches function like they are a YMCA.”

You see, church today has become little more than a socialistic country club atmosphere of fun seekers – not God seekers! Psalm 127:1 – Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.

The question remains: what do you want to be a part of?

It’s good to be active, and organized, and lively, but it’s a must to be alive!

Do you want to know what an alive church is?

A church that is alive is a church where people are dying!

Dying to self that is…

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, June 29, 2009

Go Green, Get Rich (with audio)


…for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 – ESV)

Recently (1/28/07), CNN Money had an article online with this title, “Go Green, Get Rich”. It revealed 9 companies that were aiming at tackling humanity's supposedly biggest problems. The headline read, “Meet the companies tackling nine of humanity's biggest problems – and making millions saving us from ourselves.” I’d like to take a look at what they say are our biggest problems, and relate these to the church world, and see why we think we are rich, but we are not.

Problem #1: Global Warming – the problem in the church is that we are warming up to the world, we are on fire for the wrong things, and instead we are getting cold.

Problem #2: Oil Dependency – the problem is a limited supply, and so we rely on foreign oil, which is worldly oil, fleshly oil, because there is not enough oil of the Spirit.

Problem #3: Hunger and Malnutrition – Amos 8:11 – churches are starving for the Word of God.

Problem #4: Dirty Air – the problem in the church is that we won’t clear the air of bitterness, envy, strife, and vanity (Ephesians 4:29 – 5:6)

Problem #5: Dirty Water – James 3:11 – corroded pipeline / Jeremiah 2:13 – no water

Problem #6: Overfishing – the problem in the church is underfishing.

Problem #7: Epidemics – the problem in the church is crisis Christianity.

Problem #8: Drug-Resistant Infections – the problem in the church is we don’t use God’s prescriptions. The Word of God will pierce through any poison (Hebrews 4:12).

Problem #9: Waste Disposal – the problem in the church is we just hang on to all our old garbage

Oh, they missed #10, and it is kind of a big one, it is #1 really: SIN. That is humanity’s biggest problem.

The world thinks it knows what the problems really are, and it thinks we can educate ourselves into a solution. They are wrong, of course, as we could “solve” all these problems but the heart of man would still be beating after its own master, itself. A new host of hellish problems is just waiting to be born in the heart of man. No amount of “going green” is going to change that. Companies may get rich, and people may get wealthy in the world’s eyes, but their money will fade away and their problems are only the latest fashion of the foolish heart. Instead, if you tend to God’s greenhouse, you will be indeed rich, with a harvest of the fruit of the Spirit.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 26, 2009

Yes it IS About a Building (with audio)


…when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:16 – ESV)

We so often hear, “church isn’t about a building”. Well let this old preacher man tell you something. They are all wrong. Yes it is about a building, a building up of one another in love, and you cannot do that sitting at home as well as you can sitting in a pew, let alone getting involved beyond that. You are better off to sit idle in church than sit isolated at home.

The Apostle Paul says we have been given teachers as a gift from Jesus Himself for the building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). The text doesn’t say building up your body as Christ but THE body, the whole body, and if you are missing you aren’t being built up together you are missing out altogether. How can each part be working properly when you aren’t working with the rest of the Body at all?

Now you can say, “no that isn’t what we mean by building” and I would say I know. What you mean is that you won’t commit to a local group of people who want to worship, fellowship, and be in discipleship with one another like the New Testament teaches. You might say back, “Well how do you know what I’m thinking you’re just a stupid little old preacher man?” Well you are right, I am just a stupid little old preacher man, but that is the point now, isn’t it? Your nonsense can’t even fool me, a stupid little old preacher man, what makes you think you can fool Jesus?

Now about that building: if the true marks of the church exist, the people could meet in any facility, even outside, that is certainly true. I think we should heed God’s words in Isaiah 66:1-2. Indeed some buildings may be impressive but they aren’t holding a real church, the people in the pews and the pulpit are as pagan as can be. They are compromised and apostate. Whole denominations are like this.

However, it is the same for individuals. We must also understand that although some think of themselves as a living temple of the Holy Spirit, their heart condition tells the real story. They are dead. If you aren’t being built up along with others, you aren’t a temple you are a vacated building.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Lone Ranger in Danger (with audio)


…that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith…
(Romans 1:12 – ESV)

In the verses surrounding our text here, Paul defines a main purpose of his prayers for the Christians at Rome, that he might see them personally. Face to face time is most always better than letters or anything else: communication is good, but companionship is better. Discipleship happens best person to person, not person to program. Paul wanted to see them and live as a light before them (Philippians 2:15). Is it better to learn from the manual or learn from the man? The Bible is more than the Owner’s manual; it is how we meet with God himself (John 5:39). It is about more than principles; it is about a Person.

Paul is determined to see them that he might be able to help strengthen their faith, but it is not only that Paul will give, but also receive from them.

Our faith is strengthened within the company of other saints. You may live as a virtual outsider from God’s people and wonder why you keep falling down, or wonder why the Bible seems so dry, or wonder why your faith just doesn’t seem as real anymore, or wonder why all you see is hypocrisy; you need fellowship to see that the plank in your eye makes you see everything as having a plank in it. We see our problems in the context of our community; then we can change.

(2 Corinthians 1:4) You need the comfort of others and you need to give comfort to others. The lone ranger’s are wrong; you do need church, but even if you didn’t, the church needs you.

Take the time to invest in someone others miss (James 2:8-9). Ephesians 5:21 – you should be able to learn from every Christian (1 Corinthians 6:17).

The poorest of the poor in God’s kingdom have something of value for you to receive; it is our pride that hinders us – when Paul says “for you all” he means even sandpaper people have value.

Paul is praying that God will allow him to see the Roman Christians in person so that he could give and receive from their mutual faith (2 Peter 1:1). He was passionate to be with others who have a growing and showing faith. Are you? God wants to guide, guard, and gift you, but you have to be in the lunch line to get fed. Do you want to be escorted, established, and encouraged?

Are we as Paul praying for God to guide us into fellowship with others so that we may be strengthened and comforted by our mutual faith? Do you pray that you will find one reason (person) to go to church, not one reason to stay home? Do you pray for those who don’t make it to church? Do you pray for others to come so that they may be blessed? What is your faith known for?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sandpaper People (with audio)


…and the rough places shall become level ways
(Luke 3:5 – ESV)

Sandpaper people. You know, those folks that seem to always rub you the wrong way. We may not understand, but they are there for a reason. And guess what; you are a sandpaper person for someone else. We are all sandpaper people. We are all rough around the edges. So why do we need or have so much scraping going on? Lets try and shed some light on this subject.

Consider first how an oyster makes a pearl. The formation of a pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell, which irritates the mantle. It's kind of like the oyster getting a splinter. Something gets under its skin, as it were. The mantle covers the irritant with layers of the same nacre substance that is used to create its own shell. This eventually forms a pearl. So a pearl is a foreign substance covered with layers of nacre.

Spiritually speaking, we can relate the nacre to our love for one another. When someone is an irritation, when someone gets under your skin, cover them with the mantle of love. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8 – ESV).

Some people may seem like nothing but a thorn in your side. Remember what Paul said about his thorn, For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10 – ESV). Sandpaper people help you develop the pearl of patience.

Now think about diamonds. The transformation of a lump of coal into a diamond also involves a mantle. Diamonds are formed deep in the Earth, most likely in the upper mantle, and far below the level at which coal is found. Coal is never turned directly into diamonds. Diamonds are found only when brought up through volcanic action.

You see it takes some fiery trials to turn your lumps of coal into multifaceted, sparkling diamonds. We may believe that some people have nothing to offer us but heartache, headache, and bellyache. However, the poorest of the poor (even in attitude) have something of value for you to receive; it is our pride that hinders us. In his epistles, when Paul says he is praying “for you all” he means even sandpaper people have value.

Spiritually speaking, the mantle that fires those lumps of coal, the mantle that covers those irritants, and turns them into diamonds and pearls is the mantle of God’s love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14).

The environment of believers will always be imperfect, but their rough edges will help to smooth out your wrinkles. As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17). People are like “mirrors” in which we can see ourselves as we really are. Through others we can see attitudes and characteristics of our own immaturity – weaknesses in us that need to be perfected. If there is bitterness or a lack of love, it will become exposed. This is why some people run from church to church – because it exposes their bad side. But when you hide from church, you are exposed.

Sandpaper people are there to help us shine up, and for us to see our own rough spots. If a person remains an “island” to themselves they will never have to face up to the spiritual immaturity within them. But exposing themselves to the sandpaper people will cause them to face conflicts that must be overcome in order to grow up. A sign of a spiritually mature person is that they can be loving and patient with anyone (1 John 2:10 / Galatians 5:22-23). Sandpaper people may not even realize it, but God has them doing you a favor.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yes You Have To (with audio)


...not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near
(Hebrews 10:25 – ESV)

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian? The answer to this is simple, but the reality of what this question is trying to point out isn’t as simple as it may seem, because many are not focusing on what is really meant by this question. To simply answer the question, then, do you have to go to church to be a Christian? The answer is no.

However, lets now propose a different, more pointed question that actually gets to the heart of the matter. Do you have to go to church when you are a Christian? The answer is yes. Lets state them together, so that you may think about this, and begin to realize where we are going next. Do you have to go to church to BE a Christian? No. Do you have to go to church WHEN you’re a Christian? Yes.

Now people can get all up in arms about this statement, but what they are doing is focusing on the legal aspect of it, not the spiritual aspect of it, and they fail to recognize that their spiritual lives will indeed suffer if they are not in church. Period. God knows it, everyone else knows it, and you know it.

What many people fail to realize is the benefit of just being there. It is very much like when I counsel couples; I always get them to commit to praying together at night before they go to bed. I am sure many of them wonder why this is so important. They probably feel like this exercise, as they might call it, has little chance of actually helping them.

However, what they are doing in their fleshly minds is trying to reason out why this is valuable inherently, and come to believe that the prayers won’t solve anything. They are looking at the prayers as some sort of vehicle that will magically deliver a message or some innate power that will get them to the next level. The answer isn’t always in the prayer by itself, it is that we honor God by doing it, and then He begins to line up the events and situations that will help us overcome the obstacles.

People are looking at the prayer itself, and wondering, what can that possibly do, I need money right now, or I need this or that to stop happening, or I need a job. It isn’t that He will give you a message right then and there, that this and this is what you should do, though He may, it is that this and this will start happening, all in response to your obedience to worship God and honor Him with prayer. You are leaving it on Him, in a way. You are coming in to His presence, as a couple, and the mere fact that you do this, becoming more intimately involved with God together, is why God becomes more intimately involved in your situation.

Church is the same way. The message may not have all that jazz for you in your mind, and the music may not move you as much as what is in your CD player right now, but that is only part of the plan God has for church. If you will just submit to God and commit, really now, to the local church, God will commit to your local lives. When you miss church you are not simply missing the message, you are missing the method.

The leading God gives is not only through the probing eye of the pastor, and not only through the community of believers assembled there, it is also just by attending yourself, in that God will then attend to your wants as you have attended to what He wants. Participating in church precipitates the providence and provision of God. When you open the doors of your will, then God will open the doors of your opportunity.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, June 22, 2009

Common Clothing (with audio)


in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
(Ephesians 2:21 – ESV)

We have previously discussed the fact that God helps those who know they are weak. While we are all indeed weak, it does not mean that we don’t act. While we must be giving thanks to God for all things, and we must cling to the promises of God, we must also realize our part in the promises. As we have seen in our discussions about the compatibility between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, we have seen the need to act in accordance with God’s decrees, in salvation and in sanctification. Now we turn to a matter and manner of giving thanks to God though Jesus Christ in our solidarity.

Solidarity is defined as common interest and active loyalty within a group. They go together: not just doing activity, and not just being within. Not on the outside and not stationary, inside and involved. Not simply showing up once in a while and perhaps participating when we want to, but staying within the group and in an active way. To both be present and to participate regularly. You can’t do that on TV, folks. Tuned in to TV doesn’t mean turned on to God.

The promises of God are yea and amen, and God wants us to possess them all in abundance. Now, while some promises are things God will bring to pass no matter what, others are like a garment waiting to be worn; they are for those who meet the conditions of them. When we meet those conditions, and we continue to pray, to give thanks, and believe in God the possibilities turn into probabilities as we put on the promises of God like a prophecy.

Of course, some only want to pick and choose what “outfits” they will wear. They excuse themselves from going to church by “doing church” on television or the Internet. Those media can be a great resource, but they are only the jewelry, the gloves, the socks, or such things, if you will. But lone rangers want to see these things as their daily garment, instead of their accessories. What they end up doing is dressing for summer all the time and suffering the bitterness of winter all by themselves. Or they dress for winter and burn up in the summer heat.

There are promises of God that have been given to the Church, but many in these last days have come to believe that these promises are simply for individuals in the Church, which to them means simply saved individuals. This is not so, however; these promises are for the universal Church, yes, but they are appropriated by the individuals who are resident and active within the universal, invisible Church’s visible expression, which is the local church. If you are missing from the local church, you will be missing some of the blessings.

Saying that you can be a believer without going to church is like saying you can be a tennis player without stepping on the court, or that you are a pro, but you don’t own a racket. People say that they have a problem, that is why they couldn’t make it to church, but in truth they wouldn’t make it church, and that is why they have a problem. God knows your heart, and God knows if you are looking for an excuse. If that problem weren’t there, would you have gone then? Then why didn’t you come that one particular week you didn’t have to work, or when you didn’t have that problem? You had better go when you can or God will make sure you can’t.

Instead of looking for one reason not to go to church we should be looking for one reason to go to church. If you are watching church programs on television or the Internet, that’s great, but it isn’t commitment. Realize that this does not resolve you of the responsibility to be in a local church, with real, live, flesh and blood, flawed but blood bought believers. Start wearing the clothes of commitment; they are common to true Christians.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 19, 2009

Electronic Exposure (with audio)


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

One reason we have to go to church is that we cannot do self-evaluation properly. When you pray like David in Psalm 19:12-14 or Psalm 139:23-24 for the Lord to reveal sins to you, God often answers you through other people. For David it was the prophets like Gad or Nathan. For us it will be through the loving, caring, covenant community of the local church.

We can complain all we want about that certain local church not being a “loving, caring community”, but consider this. In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus talks about having a beam in our eye. Now consider how having a beam makes us see everything as having a beam in it. Sometimes we don’t notice a certain type of car all over the road until you own one yourself. You see a problem because you ARE a problem, we all are, but God uses the means of each other to help us all out. If you think that you don’t need church you are wrong, but even if you didn’t, even if you did have it all together well then you should come help the rest of us.

If you think you’re spiritual, just get close to your brethren, and you’ll find out what’s really inside you. It doesn’t matter how agitating, rude or unspiritual your brethren might be. This does not justify your intolerance or impatience with them. These attitudes are characteristics of your own immaturity – a weakness in YOU that needs to be perfected. This is why some people run from church to church – because it exposes their bad side. They see their own sins and blemishes revealed in their relationship with the brethren, or they become outraged when their self-willed desires or sins are challenged through convicting preaching or correction.

If a person remains an “island” to themselves they will never have to face up to the spiritual immaturity within them. But exposing themselves to the environment of the church will cause them to face conflicts that must be overcome in order to grow up. A sign of a spiritually mature person is that they can be loving and patient with anyone (1 John 2:10 / Galatians 5:22-23), and they can humbly submit themselves to truth and the correction of authority (Hebrews 13:17).

Hiding away in an electronic church world, where the entire ministry you receive is by radio, television, and the Internet will simply not do. You need more, you need the local body, and without that, those other things can be a curse instead of a blessing. These things can become a form of rejection, not release. Apart from a local assembly, there is no scriptural justification for them. I'm not saying these very things are damning you to hell, but I am saying for those that will not attend a local church, they are manifesting a rejection of discipleship, of personal responsibility before the Lord, of an internal witness on the soul and of scriptural warning.

Television may bring you under conviction but the congregation will help with correction and will bring out your sin in bold relief. You can hide and watch TV but you can’t hide from God. Even if you think you are with God you must expose yourself to the others whom God would choose to mold you. If there’s bitterness or a lack of love, it will become exposed. When you hide from church, you are exposed.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sanctification Station (with audio)


In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:22 – ESV)

Church is about fellowship, yes, and it is also about worship, yes, and worship in the context of fellowship is good and right. However, church is also about discipleship, and this takes leadership. All of this is necessary for the proper stewardship of a church through its members. There is no Internet site for all of this. There is no radio program that can get all that done. There is only one place that this all happens, the local church. The TV may have different channels on a religious dial, but for live action, it has no sanctification station.

Let’s look at some negative and positive reasons for attending a local church. To those who say they don't need to or have to go to church, or ask the question, "Why do I have to go to church?"

Going to church honors God, does your absence?

Preaching helps build the building (edifice - edification - preaching) and it is essential for the exhortation and comfort of believers, in addition to their regular feeding on the Word. Also, most that I have observed who give the excuse that they don't need to go to church to be fed and led aren't actually feeding on Christ at all, or very little at best.

When you avoid church, you are avoiding the community of believers that need your gifting, 1 Corinthians (12-14) speaks plainly to this. Romans 15:14 / Colossians 3:16 – you cannot admonish and edify others without fellowship! In other words, you are being selfish, and you are ripping me off personally! He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit; that is, one with Christ, AND ALSO, one with each other. Are you really part of the Body of Christ?

It is the fellowship of the church where we find Jesus Christ. Jesus is active in His Church. Yes, He is active in individual lives, but those lives find more power in the context of the local church.

It is the fellowship of the church where we find protection from the demonic forces of evil and sin in this world. We call it a sanctuary for a reason, folks.

It is the fellowship of the church where we find encouragement in life. We can't keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians.

It is the fellowship of the church where we become Jesus Christ to the world.

The church is where we can find the best vehicle for our growth. We hear the Word preached and taught, and it stimulates us in our own private devotional and study times.

That, in the “spiritual bodybuilding” aspect, is like “taking your vitamins” The second part of “getting big” is to engage in resistance training. In accordance with this idea, the environment of the church provides two important features of growth producing conflict:

Authority who will challenge you with truth and correct you when you are wrong.

The environment of believers who are imperfect and whose rough edges will serve as sandpaper to smooth out your wrinkles. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Hurt feelings are probably the greatest reason why people leave churches, but deepening your roots in Christ and His Word can immunize you against such tenderness. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

If you think that all your need for ministry is being met by the television, you are wrong. The TV can never allow you to tune in to the sanctification station.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

They Ought to Know (with audio)


…pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…
(Acts 6:3 – ESV)

This verse gives us the criterion that the Apostles had for the first deacons of the early church. The fact that they were to pick out men that were full of the Spirit meant by implication that some obviously were not filled. Although doctrine is obviously important, they didn’t ask them about doctrine, they saw devotion and demonstration. Those men that were filled were obvious. People who are full of the Spirit aren’t full of themselves; they are ready to serve. They are not full of cares they are full of Christ. They are not full of worry they are full of wisdom. It will show, and God’s people will know. You shouldn’t have to try and get the leadership of a church to notice you they ought to know if God is calling you to serve. If you are full of the Spirit, believe me, somebody will notice.

Of course, this means that you have to be plugged in to a local body of believers somewhere. People full of the Spirit and wisdom aren’t those who stay home from church. No one is going to “pick you out” if no one knows where you are. God isn’t in the habit of having people full of the Spirit and wisdom who are lone ranger Christians, and believe me, you aren’t the exception. Considering the fact that God fills people up so that they can flow out, how wise do you think it is to stay home from church and tell people you are doing God’s will?

When they went out looking for men full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, men of an honest and good report, do you think they had a list, a survey, or did they have to see something? Did they have to know something? They had an honest report, their lives were telling the truth. They were the same around everybody. When someone is like that, what you see is what you get. They had to know these men had a reputation not only for honesty but also for Spiritual things. Their honest report meant that they weren’t just religious showboats, they weren’t full of wisdom one minute and full of the world the next minute when no one else was looking. Believe me friend someone else is ALWAYS looking. When people see you do they know you like this? Jesus said by their fruits ye shall know them: tell me, what fruit is it that people see when they see you? What fruit is it that people who know you know that you have?

People ought to know you are a Christian, not because of the sticker on your car, not because of the slogan on your shirt, not because of the saying on your hat, but because of what comes out of your mouth, what happens with your hands, what things you do with those legs, what kind of look you have on your face, what kind of things you do with your time, and what kind of things are on your mind. Fellow believers ought to know you are full of the Spirit and of wisdom. We should be seeking God for these things to be flowing in our lives, so that we may serve the Lord and serve others. They ought to know and it ought to show and when you grow it ought to flow.

God is still looking for people full of the Spirit and wisdom to serve. You are full of something, the question is what? They ought to know.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Communing with Death (with audio)


… anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
(1 Corinthians 11:29 – ESV)

As Christians we are to be sharing in the fellowship of the Spirit (Philippians 2:1). We are to be communing with Christ, but also with one another. A major facet and the visible expression of this communion is manifest by taking the Lord’s Supper. Consider the fact that the Bible never mentions having the Lord’s Supper outside the context of the local church community. Communion is with Christ, the Head, but He is the Head of His Body, the Church.

Think about it. What are you going to do, take Communion by yourself? There are many who do and are taught just that. Unfortunately it is not just those who don’t attend a local church, but also those who think daily Communion outside of church is a good thing. It isn’t it is selfish. If that is what you think, that you can have communion with God and can take the Lord’s Supper without ever having to partake with other people, then listen up.

In 1 Corinthians 11:29 Paul tells us that those who take Communion unworthily are drinking damnation to themselves. Paul describes what unworthiness is. He says it is failing to discern the body of the Lord. Does this mean failing to recognize the elements as His Body? Reading the context of the passage, we can unequivocally state ABSOLUTELY NOT! Paul is saying that failing to discern the Body is failing to consider the members of that Body, all the members.

We cannot take Communion with all the believers across the world at the same time. But the local church is the expression of such a communion by which we respect the other members. To fail to discern this, to think we can have communion without fellowshipping with other local believers is to disrespect people that Christ died for. To take Communion outside the local assemble in that fashion is to drink unworthily. When we are taking Communion unworthily, it is because we are failing to discern His Body, and His Body is the Church! Again, think about the context here in this passage, it is about respect for the fellow members of the Body.

Verse 30 says that is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. We can take this and apply it to today by saying that because you have not discerned the Lord’s Body, that is why you are so spiritually weak, or worse, dead. Of course many who are habitually missing church or those who just simply won’t go at all are probably not thinking about taking Communion anyway. However, they certainly would be mistaken to take it by themselves all the time.

He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17), but how can you share in the communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 13:14) sitting there at home? Now if you cannot go out, if you are a shut in because of age and/or health, then obviously this isn’t you. However, you could ask the local church to come to you, and any good church, any true church will. You may be at death’s door, but you can still be communing with the Life of the local church in that way.

Christian living is like spectator sports – it is better to be a player than just a fan. Doing electronic church without the real thing is like playing a video sport game. You could be the best player in the history of the world at that game, but you might not even be able to play the real thing. In that case, if you got in the real game, you would “get killed”. You have no game; your fantasyland won’t play in the real world. Your skills would be as good as dead on the real field of play. So it is with your notion of no church. You think you have Life, but you are communing with death.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sermon Skirmish (with audio)


We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God…
(2 Corinthians 10:5 – ESV)

The church house is a war zone. It is a spiritual battleground. Now, when people talk of spiritual warfare, it conjures up all sorts of images, depending on what you have been taught about it or how you are used to practicing it. However, many have not considered the truth that preaching and listening to the preached word of God is not only one of God’s primary vehicles for growing us up, but that it is spiritual warfare. Preaching is spiritual warfare of the first order.

The sermon is a skirmish in the heavenly realm, which will play itself out in the physical world. The most intense place of spiritual warfare is in proclaiming God's Word. We as people in the pews are also involved in this warfare. When we are at church, listening prayerfully to the Word of God being expounded upon, we are in a battle the likes of which many never realize.

They ought to. The preacher is battling long held notions and wrong-headed thoughts. He is trying to exalt God and His Word and Christ and His authority in the lives of believers. He is trying to foster correct doctrine and put down incorrect doctrine and it is a battle for the listener as well. Alan Redpath said that every time the preacher gets up in the pulpit he is making an attack on hell. We are combating things, “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 – ESV).

Oh, how we need to pray that we may have ears that were as Jesus said, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” We need to pray that we won’t be distracted, that we won’t be apathetic, and that we won’t be thinking about what we are doing afterward. We pray that we might put into practice tomorrow some of the pursuits the preacher will be discussing today.

Even when we are listening, and we want to apply what we have heard, we have this “get it all done right now” attitude. The Enemy convinces us that all we have to do is make a decision, but it isn’t just your decision to start it is your determination to stay that counts. The warfare has just begun when we leave the church. It is as Jesus told us in Mark 4:15, the Enemy immediately tries to take away the Word that was sown. If you do not attach concrete action to your decision, and a decision is needed, but if you do not act in accordance with that decision it will only lead you into a boom and bust cycle of frustration. Again, in Mark 4:16-17, Jesus tells us of those who receive the Word with joy, but they have no root, so they fall away.

As well, get on your knees and pray for your pastor since he engages in spiritual warfare against the invisible forces of evil every time he steps into the pulpit and dares to faithfully wield the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18-20). Pray that his preparation is such that he does not set sail into the soil of his own imagination but he stays in touch with the text.

The church is ground zero in the war zone. Of course, those that don’t go to church are like troops that have gone AWOL. They aren’t helping anyone else in the war, and they certainly aren’t receiving any help either. Guns all around and no ammunition is a sad state of affairs for a soldier to be in. Won’t you take up arms and join in the sermon skirmish?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cross Stitching (with audio)


that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ,
(Colossians 2:2 – ESV)

Their hearts may be encouraged, reaching all the riches, full assurance, etc. This isn’t talking about material prosperity but spiritual prosperity. Spiritual well being, not physical well being. The more intimate our communion with other believers, the more spiritually rich we will be.

Look at the previous verse in Colossians 1:28 – warning everyone, teaching everyone, maturity for everyone. Now then you can clearly see the context here, warning and teaching for maturity in every person, struggling so that they all might be on the same page, strengthened (encouraged, confirmed) by being instructed in love (a good rendering of “knit together”), and coming to a more full understanding of just how marvelous Christ is.

Now being instructed in love doesn’t just mean instructed as to how to love, but also instructed as to what to love, or actually who to love. Of course this means Christ. Now they already had a love for Christ and for one another, but Paul knew that this must continue to be solidified, not just for individuals, but for the group as well. We need each other, and if one is struggling with their faith and doctrine, it serves to bring us down. Paul had been praying and persevering for their pressing on to maturity in the mystery of Christ. Everybody needs to grow up, and we need to help each other grow up, and we need to grow up together as a unit. In the battle against heresy, we need all the soldiers following the same battle plan.

You see, Paul is not speaking primarily of unity for the sake of peace but unity for the sake of the gospel, unity so as to ward off deception, knit together and encouraged as to the truth about Jesus. Building one another up in the truth. Division in doctrine causes division in the body. He is speaking, as he usually does, about being of one mind and in one accord. This is accomplished as to primary doctrine first, which would lead to correct practice and eventual understanding in secondary doctrines, a full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery. To have right practice without right doctrine is to love leaven, to court corruption, to suffer with sin, and this is what Paul was warning against. The Colossians had a right practice (1:4) and a right passion (1:8), and he wanted to make sure they had a right perspective on Christ. His strong desire is that they would have strong doctrine (1:9). As we have said before, what we need is unity with verity, togetherness with truth, and fellowship in the truth, and around the truth, not just fellowship for friendship’s sake.

The result of this being knit together is to be able to reach a full, or wealthy assurance. Again, this is not a worldly wealth, but a spiritual wealth, something far more to be desired by those who know. However, to reach these riches, to reach a full assurance you must be knit together, can’t you see that? As an individual, you can have an assurance of your salvation, of course, but it reaches its fullness in the context of community. Even John the Baptist lost his assurance of who Jesus was when he was isolated (Matthew 11 / Luke 7).

Some lack an assurance of God and His character. Is He really good and loving? The answer is in knowing God as He is revealed in His Word. Some lack an assurance of their salvation. Is my Christian life for real? The answer is in knowing that the bottom line is that our salvation rests in God, not in us. Being around the Body ought to give us an assurance of God’s character and of our salvation, and frankly, this is an assurance we simply cannot give to those who would stay away from church. How can we give it to those who won’t hear it? They aren’t here at church to hear it from us!

The church that is growing in Christ, and that is the key of course, a church like that provides a measure of protection against heresy. Now you might say that you cannot find a church like that and use that as an excuse to not go to church. Well, no church is perfect, and heresy is always at the door waiting to be let in; however, consider this fact. The fact that you are ignoring parts of the Bible that are so clear proves that you have already drifted into heresy. If you really know the riches of Christ in full assurance, in understanding and knowledge, you will want to share it with others; you will want to be knit together.

It cannot be otherwise. Believe me, and more importantly, believe the Bible, to think you can avoid being knit together and still be made whole is heresy. You’re coming apart at the seams.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Fire of Obedience (with audio)


… we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
(Daniel 3:18)

This passage gives us perhaps the starkest contrast between the presumption and the obedience of faith. It also provides us with clear insight as to how we can identify each, and is relevant for today in that it deals with situational pressure not uncommon in today’s world. Of course, we are not as yet subject to being thrown into a fiery furnace, but the emotions and the temptation to compromise are the same in a sense.

Having seen so many different instances of what the presumption of faith looks like, and now having seen the antithesis, the obedience of faith, you hopefully are convinced of the need to discern between each. The question is: HOW? Pay close attention, please, you won’t regret it.

The young men had been obedient in some smaller details earlier in Babylon. Recall how they were not eating the polluted meat, but trusted God by eating only vegetables. Lesson: the obedience of faith is about being obedient in the small things first. Obedience in “little” areas opens up true faith to be used in “big” areas, not God doing something “big”, and then you obey in the small things. Question: are you waiting for God to do something big before you let go and completely obey? How many times do you compromise on the little things?

These young men knew that God was able to deliver them, but they did not presume that He would. These men knew that they were innocent in God’s eyes, but that they were indeed guilty of disobeying the unjust law. They were ready to suffer the flames of the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar rather than suffer the fiery furnace of Hell. They were obedient to God’s will, believing as Job did – Though he slay me, yet will I trust him (Job 13:15). They did not whine about injustice, and did not use excuses to compromise. They could have reasoned, “why not just give in this once, for ten minutes?” Or, “we will be able to help our brethren more by staying alive”. But they did not compromise God’s glory for the sake of their own skin.

Lesson: The obedience of faith is concerned with matters of eternal importance, more than matters of earthly importance. Even in death we have victory, because we are not to fear them that can destroy the body but cannot destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28). Question: Do you complain out loud or to God about having to do more than others? Do you complain about injustice and/or persecution? Do you try to help God out by bending the rules?

These young men knew that they were doing what was right. They knew that their God was God. But they didn’t try and vindicate themselves by shouting down the King with taunts such as, “Our God will save us, you loser!” They didn’t presume upon God by acting holier than thou about their faith. They had confidence in God; but in His overall love and purpose for them, not in a belief that they would be shown as righteous before men.

Lesson: The obedience of faith is living out your faith before God and man, not giving lip service to God and provoking man. These men did not put their faith in a vacuum, everyone knew of them. But they did not live their faith with a microphone, either. Question: Do you think that if you are “doing what is right” that no harm can come to you? Do you chide others about their sin? Do sinners see God’s grace when they encounter you, or do you trumpet your personal faith?

How tragic it is to see supposed Christians today ignoring the lessons observed here. Some are waiting for God to move, while He is waiting for them to move. Some separate themselves from the culture so much that they never encounter the lost outside of church functions. Others browbeat people with the fact that they are “saved”.

There are many who believe that they are sanctified, when they are only sanctimonious. This behavior elicits two responses: “hypocrite”, or “holier than thou”, and neither works to bring the lost to repentance. Still others believe in their personal vindication, thinking that if they are following God that they can revile men. To these latter two groups I would advise a careful reading of the second chapter of Romans.

In this life we will all have to go through some fiery trials. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12 – ESV). Everyone will have to go through a fiery furnace. There is the one the world puts you in for not doing it their way, but that one God uses to burn off the dross, He uses it as a refiners fire. The other type is the one that awaits those that bow down to the idols of this world. The question is, which one do you want?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eternal Economy (with audio)


Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:2)

This particular verse speaks of God and His eternal plan and workings to obtain salvation for His chosen ones. However, this passage also echoes what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, that the Spirit is indeed moving us on to sanctification, and that progress will be made as we grow in grace. Notice that election here describes foreknowledge not simply as a decree of God to heaven, but also that it deals with life on earth as well, who are kept by the power of God through faith (vs.5). Upon our justification, we also received definitive sanctification; we WERE set apart for God’s purpose in a real way, sanctified perfectly, right then. We still go through the process of progressive sanctification, however, and sanctification and obedience are hallmarks of election (2 Peter 1:1-11). A continued life of obedience and a transforming character are marks of the Spirit’s work.

We know that Jesus has become our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), and so we are already holy as God sees us positional in the Son, but we can and should become more Christ-like here on earth as well. This verse and others state that the condition of a person’s life will come more and more in line with their position in Christ. The question is are you becoming a more obedient Christian? If not, perhaps you need to examine yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5 / 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). Of course we will not be perfected in this life, so Peter mentions that the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin (cf.1 John 1:7-10).

The way Peter describes the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit here shows us the Trinity in salvation, or the economic aspect of the Trinity (what God does), as opposed to the ontological aspect of the Trinity (what God is). The covenant of grace was planned by the Father (Ephesians 1:4-5 / Romans 8:28-29,33 / 2 Timothy 1:9), executed by the Son (Ephesians 1:7 / Romans 8:3-4,34 / John 6:37), and applied by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13 / Romans 8:2,9,15). Galatians 4:4-6 also gives us a look into the economic Trinity in concise terms.

Although the Trinity as a doctrine is not discussed as explicitly as we might like within the New Testament it is certainly woven into the fabric throughout. Take for example this sampling of 20 texts: Isaiah 48:16 / Isaiah 61:1 / Isaiah 63:9-10 / Zechariah 2:1-10 / Matthew 28:19 / Mark 1:10-11 / John 14:16-26 / John 15:26 / John 16:7-15 / Romans 8:1-11 / 1 Corinthians 12:3-6 / 2 Corinthians 13:14 / Galatians 4:4-6 / Ephesians 1:3-14 / Ephesians 2:18 / Ephesians 4:4-6 / 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 / Titus 3:4-6 / 1 Peter 1:2 / Jude 20-21.

However, the truth about the Trinity is that we are not restricted to “all in one verse” texts; other texts show evidence of the Trinity by showing the deity of Jesus and/or the distinct personhood of the Holy Spirit. There is massive evidence including verses where Jesus is called God (Theos), such as John 20:28 / Acts 20:28 / Romans 9:5 / Titus 2:13 / Hebrews 1:8 / 2 Peter 2:1 / 1 John 5:20.

The Trinity is the truth, and the truth is that the Triune God has a perfect plan for your life. The question is how well are you following God’s economic forecast?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

In the Game (with audio)


...I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you…
(Romans 1:8 – ESV)

I have a word for men in the ministry right now. You know we should be grateful that people volunteer to do anything at our churches at all. The Bible talks about fruit bearing in terms of 30, 60, and 100 fold. Not everyone is going to be as fruitful as everyone or anyone else, and not all harvests happen at the same time. The biggest trees often take the longest time to grow. Be glad they are doing anything at all, at least they are in the game, not that it is recreational, but that they are on the right playing field, on the right team, on the winning side. They may not be the star player, but they are cheering and playing for the right ones.

Be glad preacher, for every opportunity that you get. We should be abundantly grateful that as ministers we get to be paid to study the Bible, we are allowed to spend the extra time others don’t have in order to mine the depths of God’s Word. Yes every believer needs to read the Word, pray, etc., but not everybody is going to be moving forward as fast as you, they don’t have the time to put in the time, and you are supposed to be moving ahead. That is what leadership is all about. You give them motivation to keep on using their time as wisely as they can, not try and get them to work 80 hours a week. How about you taking up a shovel for 40 hours and then studying for 40 more?

We are not called to wear them out but to lift them up, and for some people all the commitment they can afford right now is just to make it to church. Yes they should want to do more, but being a good steward is about doing the most with your time, not sacrificing sleep and your marriage and your relationship with your kids so that you can be there at every event and so forth. Just be sure that you give them what they need from you, help them learn about what is and what isn’t a good use of their time, show them the beauty of Christ, and show them what serving God is like. Then they will figure out for themselves how they can make opportunities to serve without having to use more time.

When you are living it, even if they aren’t seeing it, they will learn what it means to treasure Christ above all else, and then they will become as fruitful as God intends them to be. It is up to you, preacher man, to equip them and cover them in the spiritual war, and to steer them onto the right playing field. It is your job to go full tilt, full time. They may not play all four quarters at full tilt intensity, but at least they are in the game.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, June 08, 2009

Transfer to Transform (with audio)


He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
(Colossians 1:13 – ESV)

In looking at this verse and the verses surrounding it, Paul is saying how God has qualified us for the inheritance of the saints in light (Ephesians 1:18) and is laying out reasons to be thankful to the Father (vs.12). If you are strengthened with all might (vs.11), then you will give thanks (vs.12), and you will give thanks by acting in accordance with what God has done with endurance, patience, and joy (vs.11).

Giving thanks to God through Jesus Christ is more than putting “in Jesus name” on the end of our prayers. It is both word and deed (Hebrews 13:15-16 / Colossians 3:17, 23-24 / 1 John 3:18). Imagine you gave two children each a bicycle. Which child would truly be giving thanks for that item you gave to them: the one who did it with just words, and never rode or took care of the bike, or the one who put it to use? It is the same with that wisdom you imparted to them, or the wisdom God imparts to you. Because of Christ, you are a member of the kingdom of God. In heaven, where God’s kingdom is made most manifest, there is no sin, no rebellion, and no darkness (1 John 1:5). To give thanks is to reflect the light that you have been given.

Think about it like this. In the world, if you have been transferred to a different job or different department, you begin to work for a new boss, under the rules of the new department, and according to the particular company standards. You have to learn the new system, and you have to grow in your knowledge of the job in order to be effective. What Paul is saying is that if you have been strengthened with might, you will have endurance, patience and joy, and by doing this you will be giving thanks, proving that you have been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints and proving that you have been delivered from darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the beloved.

He has delivered us as to eternal status, but also as to temporal character, from the dark power having its claim on us, and also from the darkness having power over us now (Romans 6:14-23 / Ephesians 2:1-6, 10, 6:12). Being delivered from sin’s penalty also carries with it being delivered from its power (1 John 1:6). We are transferred but we must act in accordance with that truth to realize we are transformed (Romans 12:1-2 / Ephesians 4:22-24 / Colossians 3). You focus on the indicative of who you are in Christ, and the imperative of acting like it follows.

There is no middle ground; there are only two kingdoms (if you think you can ride the fence realize the devil owns that). You cannot be delivered from one without being transferred to the other, when you are rescued from something you are rescued to something. You cannot be transferred without being transformed. We are not talking about a degree we are talking about whose domain are we in and whose dominion are we under. Who is your king; if it is still yourself, you are still in the kingdom of darkness (Philippians 3:18-21).

To act in accordance with this doesn’t mean that we are sinless, but it means we sin-less. We are striving towards the light, and not retreating again into the darkness, we realize (we make real) the fact that we are free. This means we act like it, we act like we are free from our sins. When we let a little darkness get in, or however it gets in, we see it for what it is, and we rush to get back to God. If your destination is heaven your destiny is holiness.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 05, 2009

They Mean Something (with audio)


…And Arphaxad begot Shelah, and Shelah begot Eber…
(1 Chronicles 1:18)

When we are committed to reading our Bibles through, all the way through, not skipping a word, we are tempted to wonder why God saw fit to include some things. Like the genealogies, and the details of travels, why are these in the Bible at all?

Well, you can be sure they are there for a reason, and perhaps we won’t know all of the richness of why in this life, but let me give you some things to think about. When we study we find out certain things have their rightful place in being included. For instance, notice that the two different genealogies in Matthew and Luke point to the two different lines of Jesus through Mary and Joseph, but both have roots in David. So these seem a necessity, in a sense.

What about those seemingly endless genealogies in the OT books, what are they there for? Well, when we see those endless names, think about the fact that God cared enough to put them there. Then think about this. When you are nothing but a name to everyone else, you are still important to God, important enough to be included even if no one else thinks you are worth the time. When you see where the Bible talks about the travels of the old timers and said they pitched a tent here or there, and then here or there again, and so on, think about the fact that when no one else cares where you are God knows exactly where you are, and He does care, every step of the way. God is interested in individuals.

When we see the personal greetings of Paul to certain individuals, think about the fact that although we don’t have much more information than their name, they were important to Paul, and they got their names in the Bible; don’t you wish that were you! Beside the Book of Life, that Bible is the one book I would want to get a recommendation in, it is better and more prestigious than any who’s who list you will ever get on this earth!

When someone takes an interest in you and your details, whether they know it or not, they are acting like Jesus. He has your hairs numbered, and even if you're bald, He counted each one as it fell off your head. Use your head, and realize that those words in the Bible, they mean something. You may not care but God does. I may not ever know what all those names mean, but I know this, God wanted them included, and He wants you included, so be glad that God wants your name included when no one else thinks you're worth the time. That means something to me.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©