Friday, October 30, 2009

Reformation Day (Radio / Podcast)

In 1514, Albert of Mainz became the Archbishop. Being the Archbishop of Mainz made one a member of the prestigious Electoral College: a group of seven members, three ecclesiastical rulers (the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne) and four secular rulers (the king of Bohemia, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Count Palantine of the Rhine, and the Duke of Saxony) whose responsibility it was to elect emperors.

Obtaining such a position did not come without expense, and in order to finance becoming the Archbishop, Albert borrowed 21,000 ducats from a famously rich banker. In order to pay off his debt, Albert obtained permission from Pope Leo X to collect alms in return for indulgences, provided that half of the money collected would be forwarded to the papacy in order to help finance the building of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. In 1517, Pope Leo X commissioned John Tetzel as the Commissioner of Indulgences for all of Germany.

To understand what an indulgence is, one must first understand Roman soteriology (doctrine of salvation), that is one must first understand how a Roman Catholic believes a person is justified.

Roman Catholics believe that grace is a commodity that one can accumulate through faith empowered good works, and that justification is therefore a process by which you accumulate enough "grace" through faithful works to justify yourself. Being born again, according to Roman soteriology, is a process that begins at water baptism and progresses until death, at which time you may or may not have any certainty about whether you had accumulated sufficient grace to avoid purgatory and go directly to heaven.

Purgatory, according to Rome's teaching, is the place where souls who didn't have enough grace in this life to be sufficiently cleansed from sin's stain, would suffer punishment. Even if a sin was confessed and forgiven by a priest, unless an "indulgence" was received from an ecclesiastical authority, one could expect to spend time in purgatory being punished for their sins at least until that punishment erased the guilt of their sin. Once the individual had been sufficiently punished in purgatory, his sins were purged, and he could continue on into heaven.

An indulgence therefore was a pardon or release from the expectation of punishment in purgatory, presuming of course that the sinner had been granted absolution by a priest already.

John Tetzel came to Wittenberg Germany in 1517, generating money to pay off Albert's debt, and to build up Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, but when Tetzel began to sell these indulgences to the uneducated German on masses, it struck a nerve.

Tetzel had created a chart itemizing prices for various sins, and sloganeering with such crass slogans as "As soon as the gold in the casket rings - the rescued soul to heaven springs" and even claiming that the indulgences he sold could save a soul who violated the Virgin Mary.

God was about to force the Church to examine what it had become, and to choose for itself whether to pursue God or mammon. The original reformers had no intentions to leave the mother church. But God chose to separate his sheep from the treacherous wolves dressed in royalty.

So it was that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther wrote a letter to Albert of Mainz protesting the sale of indulgences. Included in that letter was a copy of what has come to be called the 95 Theses, the same which were so famously nailed to the Wittenberg Castle church door. The door was a regular bulletin board, being close to and facing the main road through Wittenberg. It was not intended, I believe, to be an act of defiance, but rather an open invitation for scholarly discourse on the matter. However, by the Hand of God’s providence, the 95 Theses were quickly translated from Latin into German, printed, and widely copied, making the controversy one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press.

Whatever the case, the event had the effect of a catalyst - bringing to the forefront the profound need for reform in the Roman church. In his preaching and writing, Luther began to emphasize two main points: justification by faith and the priesthood of all believers.

Justification by faith means that Christians can never earn, deserve, or merit God's forgiveness. What we must do is to accept the life and atoning work of Jesus Christ as our substitute.

The priesthood of all believers means that every Christian has his or her own personal relationship with God, reading the Bible and worshiping in his or her own language, and praying directly to God without anyone's going in between.

What we think of as the Reformation, began as a bid from within the Roman Catholic church for reformation - a bid to correct what had become a radical departure from historic Christian faith, and ultimately a bid that was rejected by the papal system, in favor of their present, perversion of the gospel - a money generating, works based soteriology whereby men depend upon the church rather than Christ for salvation. Those who refused to embrace this perversion were excommunicated.

Before the 20th century, many churches celebrated Reformation Day on October 31st, regardless of which day of the week it occurred. Today, most churches that do celebrate it transfer the festival, so that it falls on the Sunday (called Reformation Sunday) on or before October 31st.

The fact that Reformation Day coincides with Halloween may not be mere coincidence. Halloween, being the Eve of All Saints' Day might have been an entirely appropriate day for Luther to post his 95 Theses against indulgences since the castle church would be open on All Saints' Day specifically for people to view a large collection of relics. The viewing of these relics was said to promise a reduction in time in purgatory similar to that of the purchase of an indulgence. Luther may have been shrewd in his choice of that day to post his theses.

This emphasis on the true gospel, justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone has been widely lost today. Luther said, "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." May God raise up a Luther today who will face down the demonic opposition of all the false religion and lift up high the name of Christ and the gospel in truth.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jesus Submitted (Radio / Podcast)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:5 – ESV)

Man’s nature is not submission but rebellion. Even in the Garden of Eden there really was only one thing to submit to and they wouldn’t do it.

Think about Jesus and His relationship with the Father, and you will realize how core the concept of submission is to the Christian message and faith. Jesus was perfectly submissive (Romans 5:19). How miserable would Jesus have been if He had argued with the Father all the time instead of submitting to His will?

In Philippians 2:6-8, we see Jesus showing us three levels of submission, and in vs.9-11, we see the results. Based on that, Paul exhorts us to action in vs.12-13.

Vs.6 – Submitted Himself to God as a Son
God’s plan – Jesus 1st act of redemption was submission without it there is no salvation
John 5:17-19, 8:28, 14:10, 10:33, 19:7 – He was still God but He did the Father’s will
Wilderness temptation – Satan presented “alternatives”, but Jesus stayed in submission

Vs.7 – Submitted Himself to Men as a Servant
He had to be born as a baby, cleaned and fed, with all the mundane aspects of being human. He grew in stature, but still had to endure the waiting period before His ministry.
What kept Him going? The high call (I must be about my Father’s business)
Hebrews 5:8 / Matthew 20:25-28 – He was still a leader but He was a servant also service by leading as example and teacher

Vs.8 – Submitted Himself to Death as a Sacrifice
(Matthew 26:39 / Hebrews 2:10-15 / Matthew 10:28 / Job 13:15 / John 12:24-26) He was still going to be resurrected (Acts 2:23-33) but He submitted to the wrath of God (Isaiah 53).


Vs.9 – The Father Has Exalted Him
He was already the creator and sustainer (John 1:3 / Colossians 1:15-18 / Hebrews 1:2-3)
As great and powerful as He already was, now His name is magnified

Vs.10 – The Universe is Submitted to Him
Ephesians 1:21-23 / 1 Peter 3:22

Vs.11 – The Father is Glorified in Him
1 Corinthians 15:24-28
Jesus sought God the Father’s glory just as the Holy Spirit seeks to glorify Christ

Most people don’t want to do something “beneath their dignity”, yet when we look at Christ we see that no one has ever had a greater drop off in “dignity”. Jesus proves that to submit to Deity is true dignity, no matter what the world says. Therefore…(Philippians 2:12-13)…

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 19, 2009

Feeding the Monster

And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
(Mark 2:27 – ESV)

Here are some thoughts about institutions, both civil and church, in the light of our fallen humanity and its attendant depravity.

Help those in need, certainly; help everyone become needy, certainly not.

From each according to his ability
To each according to his need
This is not a Christian ideology, this is Marxism

What happens is that needs are created that didn’t exist before as slackers subsist on the welfare of others, while the truly needy are stuck in a queue somewhere.

What happens is that abilities are marginalized not motivated, as people have no reason to do more, or their best, there is no reason to push when everyone is on the wagon.

When the incentive is taken away productivity falls, and creativity dies.

No reason to do extra when good enough gets the same results and poor is equally awarded.

It is not only that doing more doesn’t gain anything; it is that doing less gets the same as doing more, or doing nothing.

In a fallen world, there will always be people who will only invest as much of themselves as is necessary to get the required benefit; we see it in church all the time.

Government can get so big, so intrusive, and so pervasive that it becomes a necessity beyond what it is intended to do, and we must continue to feed it, keep it going, make it bigger, because more are now so connected that if we fail to feed it, everyone else dies. That is when the state becomes the instrument of creative catastrophe.

The government is supposed to be an instrument to service the people, but the people become an instrument to service the government.

It is the same with a church.

The church is supposed to be an instrument to service the people, but the people become an instrument to service the church. We must feed the mega monster in order to keep her alive. That is when the church becomes the instrument of compromise.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Cheek to Cheek, or Tooth and Nail? (with audio)


But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
(Matthew 5:39 – ESV)

When Christians are attacked are they supposed to defend themselves? Does our Lord’s word here mean that we are to be complete pacifists? This is a very misunderstood concept, and we need clarification. This word from Our Lord isn’t intended to teach us to invite more attack upon being attacked, but to rather take it and not strike back. In demonstration, when smitten on the face, Jesus did not strike back but He did answer (John 18:22-23).

What Christ is teaching is the principle that we are not to seek absolute retribution, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but rather to allow space for God to judge (Romans 12:19/ 1 Peter 2:21-23). This is about our means of defense. We can speak up for our position (Acts 22:1, 25:8, 26:2 / 1 Corinthians 9:3). We can defend ourselves from being killed (Luke 22:36-38) but not look to be on the offensive (Matthew 26:52).

This situation Jesus is speaking of is different than self-defense. Self-defense is preventative, not retaliatory, and retaliation is what the admonition to “turn the other cheek” addresses. When Jesus says we are to turn the other cheek, He is saying that as Christians we are to act differently, not looking to do as we once did as unbelievers (Matthew 5:40-47). We are not supposed to try and protect our honor, our reputation, and our dignity at all costs (1 Peter 3:14-17).

Otherwise, if we are never to defend ourselves, the full armor of God isn’t something we should use, is it? No, on the contrary, we are taught to resist the devil (James 4:7). We do not wrestle with flesh and blood in the sense that the forces behind the attacks on our mind are orchestrated by the devil (Ephesians 6:12). When the enemy attacks our minds we are to battle back with the truth of God’s Word.

Sometimes, however, attacks can come against our physical person, and the full counsel of God must be brought to bear. We are not supposed to return fire when fired upon for witnessing of Christ. We are not supposed to be aggressors, of that we can be certain. We defend the faith (Jude 3 / 2 Corinthians 10:3-5), but not fight tooth and nail for our own self-interests (Romans 12:16-21 / Philippians 2:3-4 / 1 Peter 3:9). In other words, we don’t fight to prove we’re right.

However, we may fight to prevent wrong. It depends on the situation, of course. When someone physically attacks us they are under the influence of the enemy. If it is while we are witnessing, then yes, we shouldn’t retaliate if they insult us or even if they hit us (1 Peter 4:13-14). However, if it is an “unprovoked” incident, say during a robbery or break-in of your home, then it is our duty to fight off the intruder with the necessary force. You may be able to talk the person out of it, but sometimes you don’t have time to talk.

When the enemy uses a person to attack we need to understand the truth of God’s Word concerning these matters. Defend the faith from false religion, definitely. Defend your honor with physical violence when someone falsely accuses you because you are a Christian? No, turn the other cheek. Defend your wife and children when someone breaks into your home at night and is trying to kill them, yes, and do it tooth and nail.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, October 16, 2009

Called to be Saints (with audio)


…who are loved by God and called to be saints…
(Romans 1:7 – ESV)

Christians are called saints (Ephesians 1:1); it isn’t some special designation given by men to other men because of what they have done. The Bible says that even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Those who are saved are all saints on account of Jesus Christ and His righteousness. All our good deeds are because of what He has done not what we have done.

Grace and peace to the saints; this is a standard opening of Paul’s. He states the fact that those who have been called saints are also called to be saints; that is those whom God called Paul knew by their faith – they acted like saints, not like aint’s (Romans 1:8 / Colossians 1:2-4). He calls them saints corporately, the group of individuals that God has called out for Himself, the saints.

These days we are committed first to results and relationships. But here Paul declares that we are first called to be saints, to God and His kingdom, not first to results or relationships, but to God. Of course this falling away started all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve chose results by Eve wanting what the fruit supposedly offered. Adam still had a choice to make, even after Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, but Adam chose his wife (relationships) rather than God (obeying His Word). This is why Christ said that we must put our relationship with God and His Word above any other relationship; He even described it as “hating” you father and mother as compared to God.

Jesus reversed this human tendency toward results and relationships by denying Himself. In His testing in the wilderness (Matthew 4 / Luke 4), imagine if He had turned the stones to bread. Satan would not have said, “aha!” he would have told Him to feed the world – results to the glory of the devil. But Christ knew the Word comes before the bread – John tells us that Jesus first taught them then fed them (John 6). Satan tempted Jesus in His relationship with the angels, and also with the results of gaining the world. But what will it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul (Mark 8:36)? Jesus knew the discouragement of having a ministry that didn’t seem to meet its goals (Isaiah 49:1-6), but He with was more interested in faithfulness than results, and He knew that God would reward Him (Philippians 2:9-11 / Hebrews 12:2).

The quest of results and relationships has clouded the judgment of the Church, and of individuals that ought to know better. The world in the church – look at the fruit of the Church Growth Movement – has the Church changed the world, or has the world changed the Church? They may get the whole world into their churches, but are the people transformed, or does that church become transformed? The churches are bigger than ever but full of unregenerate, unrepentant unbelievers. Instead of tares among the wheat we now have wheat among the tares.

We have got it backwards. They even speak of “transformational churches” these days. The Bible says that we are not to be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. The people are to be transformed by God, not the church being transformed by the world. They say that if we don’t adapt we will be left behind, but I say that if we do adapt we will be left behind all right, when the trumpet sounds at the Rapture, where the unspotted bride of Christ will be taken away (Ephesians 5:27 / Colossians 1:22). They say that if we don’t get with it that we will fade away. But my Bible says, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever (Isaiah 40:8).” Again, I say, what profit a man, and we could say, the Church, to gain the world but lose its soul?

You are called to be a saint; how long before you answer the call?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Building Code (with audio)


However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Ephesians 5:33 – ESV)

When counseling engaged couples, some are starting out strong and have the capacity and potential to have a powerhouse marriage, and others need a lot of work, but the truth is any and every marriage needs a lot of work. It isn’t some start at the top experience; it is a long climb up, together. Some couples have the look of a team that will be a real winner, but I always tell them all, you cannot bank on potential, you must try and fill the capacity. You must be more than willing you must be intentional. It is not about “doing stuff” or going somewhere but being willing to learn together and trusting each other. That is a building process.

A good marriage is a building process, not a finished product. That is the main problem, obstacle, and failure I see within marriages of all sorts; they thought they would get by on love alone, but they didn’t understand what married love is. Married love must grow, from a “we are so in love with each other, we will always work together, and we never fight, so it will always be this way”, to a more mature, growing in grace with God union that sails through the incidental and inevitable rough seas of married life.

God allows couples to go through trials to show them, if they are willing and intentional, how strong the marriage bond can be. Steady in the midst of the storm, just like He does with all Christians as individuals in their relationship with Him (Matthew 7:24-27). This is the way of God, to show you He is there with you even when it seems like you are surrounded by opposing forces, and even death, and indeed you are. The truth is that you will be experiencing things that are unexpected because they will be unique to you as a couple, and we cannot give you a cookie cutter answer considering the dynamic, etc. However, we can teach you with the Word of God.

The devil is so into destroying marriage relationships because the marriage union is a picture of the love that God has in Himself, between the persons of the Trinity. And so when you enter a marriage covenant, you are entering into a spiritual war zone, and if you do not intend to grow spiritually, you will suffer massive loss, and perhaps even a marriage casualty. True godliness is the key to a lasting, wholesome, growing, successful, spiritual, happy marriage. One that not only lasts but also becomes more and more lovely as the years go by.

A good marriage is not one without struggles; God’s plan is for there to be struggles. God wants you to struggle, because He wants you to grow, and that takes growing pains. You can’t be knit together without having to be twisted and turned and united. Your marriage will go one of two ways. You will struggle as a team together, against some difficulty, and grow closer and stronger because of it, or you will struggle against each other and those other things will become “issues”, etc. Ask any married couple worth their salt, and they will confirm what I say is true.

You could have an individual life that is like a beautiful quilt, but if you are not being woven together then each of you will just be different cloth, and eventually one cloth will be jealous of the other, and the split will happen because their was no common fabric in the first place.

This wisdom from God is not only for couples about to be married, those already married, those who may some day want to be married, but even for those who have gone through the pain of a divorce. We need to continually make ourselves ready to be what God calls us to be, we must be ready to have a godly marriage by being submitted to godly principles before we can be ready, and if we are, we will be okay even if we don’t get married. That is the building code.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bound to be Free (with audio)


For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 7:22 – ESV)

In Paul’s day, and even up till today, we see the cruel context of slavery in some societies. Paul and the New Testament do not condone slavery; they were simply using it to teach that even under the worst of conditions, a child of God could radiate the light of Christ. They were free men indeed if they could feel their freedom in Christ while bound by the earths chains.

Even though most of the world doesn’t have institutionalized slavery anymore, this principle applies to employer / employee relationships and the like (Colossians 3:22-24). Looking at the context of Titus chapter 2, we see Paul stressing that Christlike behavior is a witness to show that all people may come to Christ regardless of social status, gender, race, etc. Whether younger or older, richer or poorer, slave or free, man or woman, or whatever the case may be, the salvation that is in Christ is to be modeled for all to see that Christians can come from anywhere, and that God will save anyone anywhere who will come to Him.

Just because a slave can and should please God doesn’t mean that Paul is teaching that God doesn’t want men to be free. Indeed Paul says that if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity (1 Corinthians 7:21). He meant legally and not by escaping of course. Just because you can glorify God in that dark place doesn’t necessarily mean God wants to leave you there, but your attitude must be that if He does leave you there you will serve Him by serving in that situation anyway. If you can be free, if you can be loosed, if you can be made whole, healed, helped or whatever then you should praise the Lord. If not, well, then praise the Lord too. In everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). No matter what earthly situation you find yourself in keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 1:21), and don’t entangle yourself in spiritual slavery again.

Being an ambassador for Jesus in a context as cruel as slavery is earning great reward in heaven by honoring our Lord, who experienced a more dramatic drop-off in dignity than any of us on earth could possible face or even imagine. To be a shining light in a dark situation is to do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way. A slave whom God allows to continue in that is bound to be free. Bound in order to be free, bound in order to set others free, bound to be free at last. He, or we, may be bound because being free would lead him, or us, away from Christ. He may be bound but eventually he will be set free because death will bring him to heaven. He may be bound but no one is quite so free as the one who feels his freedom in Christ while shackled with the world’s chains. In other words, his chains are for the glory of the Lord. Others whom God is calling will see Christ.

The Apostle Paul found himself locked up in a Roman jail but God has used the letters he wrote while there to set people free for nearly two thousand years. The Apostle John was chained to a rock on the island of Patmos but he saw a Revelation of The Rock greater than any man in history. The mature Christian may be bound by some situation, but they know that they are bound to win, even in death. They are bound yet free, and we need to show the world the Truth, as living pictures of the Gospel, that Christ was bound up on that cross, setting men free from sin and death for eternity. We are dead to sin and self, and alive to God, and no earthly chains can bind our spirits while we trust in our Deliverer.

See 1 Corinthians 7:22 in light of the context of the New Testament, and God’s redemptive plan. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, the key is to be filled with the Spirit in that situation. The greatest witnessing a Christian can do is by doing what a mature Christian would do in that dark situation. We need ambassadors on all fronts, portraits of grace pictured within every scenario, especially bad ones, so that those without hope can see that there is hope for final redemption, that God has not forgotten them in their chains, and that they can be delivered for all eternity. No earthly chain can strangle the Spirit of God, where the Sprit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). We need to be filled with the Spirit and feel our freedom.

Sometimes, and perhaps as we grow in grace most often, the power of God is not to deliver you from a situation but through and in that situation itself, so others, whom are not Christians or who are weak in the faith, they can see what a mature believer would do in the same situation. Sometimes God has us bound in order to show others what God’s true freedom is. When everyone is in the same dark place, who do they look for? It is the one with the light, like the one who is bound to be free by being a slave to Christ.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blameless Not Sinless (with audio)


And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
(Luke 1:6 – ESV)

When the bible speaks of men like Noah as blameless or perfect it does not mean that they were without sin, and it does not mean that they were good enough to be saved apart from God’s grace. Verses such as Luke 2:25 and Acts 10:2 point to people who were devout followers of God, but this doesn’t mean that they were saved because of their own merits. They were doing all they knew to do, but they were not sinless, and they still needed atonement. Considering the Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:6 shows that although Paul was blameless according to the Pharisaical understanding of the Law, he knew it still wasn’t enough to make him truly righteous, he needed the righteousness of faith in Christ (3:9).

1 Timothy 3:2, in giving the qualifications for being a church leader, also gives us the point about the idea of being blameless. The meaning of blameless is not sinless, but irreproachable. We also see Paul instructing those wanting to be a deacon to be tested first and to be found blameless before taking that office (3:10). It is not about being perfect, but about being proved and being proper. 1 Timothy 5:7 gives additional evidence of this.

Friends, no one is without sin, and yet there are people without blame. In situations where you are not guilty of any offense, say in some other event across the world, it is easy to see that you are without blame in that matter. Put this in the realm of known rebellion. If you are not in any way bringing reproach to the name of Christ by harboring sin, and you have no cause to hide your life were it to be seen before all, then in that sense you can be said to be blameless. This is what is meant by our text above. They were not sinless, and yet they were blameless. To say blameless is to say that nobody could charge them with any open rebellion, no scandalous sin. They were living honestly and without offense, and this is as ministers are supposed to do, that the ministry be not blamed by their blame.

Now being blameless doesn’t mean that no one is ever going to accuse you falsely, or misrepresent or you, or misconstrue what you have said. It means that you will be proven over time, you will be shown to have been blameless. When 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says “Abstain from all appearance of evil” we must take into consideration that some only have the evil eye, and we cannot avoid looking bad to them. To those we would say this: if you look for sin, you will find it, but how about looking in the mirror first, you will find all you can handle right there.

“Who are you to tell me?” “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone.” “Judge not lest ye be judged.” How often do we hear someone rationalize their rebellion by using the excuse that no one is without sin, and so therefore no one has the right to do anything about said rebellion? The truth is that a rebellious attitude is different from a repentant one. There must be a minimum standard of faithfulness for a certain standard of fellowship. Just because we have no sinless doesn’t mean we have no standards. We cannot be sinless, but we should be blameless.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 12, 2009

Behold His Beauty (with audio)


as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one;
(Romans 3:10 – ESV)

Man best sees the marvelous beauty of Christ when it is set against the backdrop of sinful humanity, in all its depravity. In Romans 3:10-18 Paul uses quotations from the Psalms (Psalms 14:1-3, 5:9, 140:3, 10:7 and 36:1) and from Isaiah 59:7-8 to support the statements of verses 9 and 10: both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, and none is righteous, no, not one.

This look at the human condition is depressing. What’s the point? The Apostle Paul wants us to understand our complete inability to save ourselves. This is actually a hopeful message, we are hurt to be healed, wounded to be made well, put to death to be made alive. If we see the depths of our sin we can appreciate the magnitude of our deliverance. We must believe that we have the sickness so that we will believe in and take the cure. We see the problem before the prescription.

In looking at each of these six Old Testament quotes Paul doesn't mean that every one has the whole indictment in it, but that taken all together they have the whole indictment. Psalm 14:1-3 (vs.10-12) refers to the Gentile world, while Isaiah 59:7-8 (vs.15-17) refers to the Jews. The point is that the Old Testament declares that Jewish people are sinners and Gentile people are sinners.

No one seeks for God – What about all the religion and rituals and practices from the beginning of time? What about them? If man initiates the search then he doesn’t seek the true God, the God of the Bible. Instead he seeks an idol that he makes himself, as Paul explained in Romans 1. Again, he has already said all of this, now he is using the OT scripture to back it up conclusively. He finishes off with “There is no fear of God before their eyes”.

In Romans 1:18-3:18 we see ourselves, and our whole race. We see our lack of power and our lack of purity. I am not God, and I do not deserve His kingdom. Neither do you. I realize that I deserve nothing from God but His anger, and that I am lost without hope if I do not receive grace from Him. I know this to be true. How about you?

Now having seen what we all are, what about Jesus? That is the whole point isn’t it? Just look at Him here in all His beauty. Yes, against the backdrop of sinful humanity, we see the surpassing glory of Christ! Look at the negative phrases in Romans 3:10-18 again and see Christ as opposed to them in magnificent splendor. Like a diamond set in a black box, His radiance shines all the more brighter.

10 – as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one;
Jesus was righteous; the Bible says yes, He is the only One.

11 – no one understands; no one seeks for God.
Jesus did understand God, the Bible says He is the only One to have seen the Father, and came from Him, and Jesus is His Son. The Bible says that Jesus did seek God. He only did what His Father wanted; He sought Him early in the morning and late at night in prayer, and followed the lead of the Holy Spirit His whole life, even if it meant death.

12 – All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
The Bible describes Jesus as turning aside to do the work of the Father, turning aside to help others, not turning aside to His own, selfish way. Jesus started out in a manger, but became of more worth to the world than anyone else in history. The Bible says Jesus went about doing good, healing people, and setting them free from oppression.

13 – "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips."
His throat wasn’t an open grave; He called people out from the grave. When He died people sprung forth from their graves, and when He returns we will all come out of our graves. His tongue spoke no deceit and His lips had no poison, His words were Spirit and Life.

14 – "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
His mouth was full of praising His Father and His bitterness was sorrow for those that had caused curses upon themselves.

15 – "Their feet are swift to shed blood;
His gave His own feet to be shed blood for those who didn’t even love Him.

16 – in their paths are ruin and misery,
In His path are resurrection and joy.

17 – and the way of peace they have not known.”
Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

18 – "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Jesus only had eyes for His Father’s will, and for your salvation He said to the Father, not my will but thine be done.

Jesus was like us in that He had human flesh, but He was not like us in that He had no sin. Against the backdrop of all we have seen here, we can surely see that Jesus is the most beautiful, wonderful, marvelous, awesome being in the universe, and He bids us to come to Him. If we receive Him, He will receive us into glory.

In this passage I see my own sin, and I see my only Savior. It is Jesus that I want, it is Jesus that I must have, it is Jesus that will truly fulfill me, it is Jesus that will pay the penalty for me, it is Jesus who will be righteousness for me, it is Jesus to whom I owe my love and my life, it is Jesus who will set me free, it is Jesus who will bring me back from the dead, it is Jesus who will give me eternal life. Jesus is what I need, how about you?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Altar of Adrenaline (with audio)


…watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires…
(Isaiah 50:11 – NLT)

What is it that energizes you? Most people work in the strength they already have. (Isaiah 50:10-11 / Jeremiah 2:12-13 / 17:5). This is what I call the “altar of adrenaline”. Are you living out of the energy of your flesh, or has God begun redefining the way you live by renewing your energy in Him? We’ve said before that bitterness is what energizes some if not most people. You see if we are being energized by our bitterness, we are not and indeed cannot be energized by God.

Do you have an altar of adrenaline? Some people are so used to being sad, they have learned to derive energy from it. They resign themselves to living in that state, and draw their power to live from it. When they hear a little bit of bad news, they immediately go into their adrenaline mode to be able to cope, and actually bring on more pain to give them more energy. Being sad spurs them on in a sense.

The same goes for anger. We create situations where we are angry at something that didn’t even happen. We imagine for a moment the “what if it did”, and become adrenalized and feed off the only source of energy that will satisfy us. We may even get up in the morning and dream up a scenario that will raise our ire, just because it gets us going. This is the reason for the road rage drug and its disproportionate response. This is why some people get high; they instinctively recognize a problem but don’t know how to deal with it other than muffle it through drugs, legal or illegal.

We have got to get a new workplace – the prophetic and not the pathetic. We are not victims we are victors. We are always to be working for the Lord. We need the right source of energy to do the right kind of work; otherwise all our work for God is wasted and becomes mere words.

People may not believe a word you say, but they will believe everything you do. When your actions line up with your words the conviction that people will see in you will herald the revolution to those whom God would call. You become greater than mere words, and larger than life. This principle holds true for churches too. We say that we are a loving fellowship, but will we prove it by loving the undeserving? Many can talk the talk; will we walk the walk?

We walk the walk by working together in God’s energy. Working together – its like fishing with a net versus a single rod. Instead of using our linked arms to pull each other up all the time (we do it when necessary), we need to get together on the same page. When we are walking and worshipping at the same pace, our linked arms are much more than a support device, they become a net to catch others. Casting a line catches one at a time; casting a net is better yet. Jesus said “I will make you fishers” – plural – of men.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'm On Fire! (with audio)


…fervent in spirit; serving the Lord
(Romans 12:11)

The components of a fire are heat, fuel, and oxygen, and fire brings heat, light, and energy. And when we are talking about being alive, about being on fire for God, that fire needs the same three components as any fire: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Take away any of the components and the fire will not burn. Have these three in place and look out! A living church is a church where people are dying; dying to self, and to die to self you must stay on fire for God. There is a difference between a fire made by men and a fire made of men.

We have spoken before about churches today that have no real fire. What we need is for people to be on fire for the gospel, but what we see is more adrenaline, activity, and acceptance of the sin in our lives. We may have passion, but we don’t have any real power, no real fire, and no true life, because we lack purity, which is the fuel for the fire. We may have all the heated feelings and emotional outbursts we can muster, but without the proper fuel, and the sustaining energy of the oxygen, they will not last, not for eternal purposes. They have a man made fire.

Feelings are only the heat, purity is the fuel, and the Word is the oxygen. Feelings are not the fuel for the fire they are the God given emotion that drives it and the heat that results from it. The fuel is the combustible material which is you as God’s refining fire burns off the dross. This is what keeps the fire fed with fuel. If you are not being purified then you are letting the true fire go out. Holy Ghost fire is apparent in a life lived for Christ, a life that is being transformed. A living sacrifice Paul says in Romans 12:1-2. It may hurt but if you want to be a living fireball that is the price you have to pay (1 Peter 4:1). This shows as the light of a life being changed by Jesus, the gospel light. Where there is no fuel, the fire goes out. You must feed the fire with you.

Fire also needs oxygen, the breath of God the Word. It is the energy; a fire without the Word will be snuffed out without the necessary oxygen. Scripture is “God breathed” as it declares in 2 Timothy 3:16 – this is the energy that shows it is God who is doing the work. Everybody sees your burning light and realizes that you couldn’t have done it on your own, and so it must be true this gospel you speak of (Matthew 5:16). You must fan the flames with God’s Word.

Not only does a fire need fuel and oxygen it also needs heat, and this heat shows to the world. The heat is your feelings, and these show forth in your increased affections for the things of God, your zeal, and your emotional self. In Romans 12:11, the word fervent in the Greek is zeo, which means to boil with heat, to be hot. This same word is used in Acts 18:25 – Apollos was fervent in spirit. In James 5:16, fervent is energeo; it has several roots and variations of meaning, but in this particular verse it means a showing outwardly of what is going on inwardly. You will experience the fruit of the Spirit not only as thoughts but also as actions and attitudes. You must feel the fire like a burning lamp.

This is how to be set on fire, and how to light a fire in your church and in your world. A fire fed with the breath, the oxygen of God’s Word, giving you energy, burning your old man as fuel which shows the light, and blazing with fervent heat that will catch anything else that can catch fire on fire too!

Take away any of the components and the fire will not burn. You must feel it, feed it, and fan it.

Do you know, do you believe, and are you realizing that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation in your life, and do you carry the message in your words and your actions? Are you cashing in on the truth that the gospel of your justification is also the gospel for your sanctification? Are you keeping the fire burning hot or are you letting it die out? Don’t be lukewarm; sound the fire alarm!

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

All Dream and No Steam (with audio)


The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor
(Proverbs 21:25 – ESV)

The promises of God are active for those who act in accordance with them. It does you no good to post a promise on your refrigerator and use it like some magic spell. You must attach concrete action to your declaration of God’s truth or to you they will be but vain words. How many long to claim the promises of God by which we are made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), yet they become unfruitful in their knowledge of God because they will not be diligent to add to their faith (2 Peter 1:8-9)? They don’t act in accordance with the promises of God and the talents He gave them. Instead of an increasingly fruitful and blossoming relationship with Christ we can become mere talkers and actually forget that we are even His.

Imagine this scenario: two boys dream of being big league baseball players. Then one day, God comes down and tells the two boys that they will make the major leagues when they grow up. The first boy says, “cool, I guess that means I can just do what I want to, God promised me that I am going to make it”. He promptly begins a life of leisure where he sits around all day eating potato chips and watching TV, never getting any exercise and certainly never practicing baseball. The other boy, however, acts in accordance with the promises God made to him. He goes out and practices real hard, and he says to himself “I’m not only going to make it to the majors, I am going to make it to the Hall of Fame!”

As they grow up, it is more of the same; the first boy becomes more and more engrossed in the idea that he will make it, and revels in that alone, never paying attention to his body or his craft. He plays the big shot as he works his way up the ranks of little league, high school and eventually all the way to the major leagues, getting one big break after another, all the while never improving his skills.

Unlike the first boy, the second boy isn’t able to coast on his way up. His breaks his arm in middle school then his leg in high school, but he never gives up. He remembers the promise of God. He understands that God started it and God is going to finish it (Philippians 1:6). He acts in accordance by working out, understanding that God is working in him (Philippians 2:12-13). He forgets what is behind and presses on toward the mark (Philippians 3:13-14). He learns that he can do all things through God who strengthens him (Philippians 4:13).

God was true to His Word. The first boy, who was slothful, makes the majors, but he never cracks the starting lineup. Just as he did in his earlier years, he now sits idly by while watching others do what he now wished he could do. He plays only one year, and then he gets demoted, and then a year later he is out of baseball altogether. He has his memories, but not much else. Since he didn’t even pay attention to his body, he begins to lose his health at an early age. The first boy had become bitter against the second boy saying he got all the breaks and it was all “luck”. He grows cold against God, wondering why he didn’t keep His promise, and he dies in his embittered state.

The second boy has a wonderful career, and when his long and distinguished baseball days are over, he is elected unanimously into the Hall of Fame. The second boy goes on to live a long life after baseball, and becomes an ambassador to witness to people of the power, promise, and purpose of God.

How many people are lazy about the promises of God? Daniel 9:2 reveals that the prophet understood that Jeremiah told of seventy years of captivity. He understood that they were almost to the time. He might have used that as an occasion to relax, but instead he got more fervent and acted in accordance with that truth by crying out to God (Daniel 9:3). Now that is what God is looking for!

I leave you with some admonitions. You need to bloom wherever and whenever you are planted or else you will be stuck there in the mud of mediocrity wishing you could be a tree when you won’t even try and be a twig. Do today what others will not, and you will do tomorrow what others cannot.

You might be making it to heaven, but are you taking anyone with you? Where does your treasure lie? Is your house made of wood, hay, and stubble? How many crowns do you want to throw down at Jesus’ feet? Are you sitting idly on the bench, or are you on your way to the Hall of Fame? You may have a desire but do you have the fire: you may have a dream, but do you have the steam?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cookie Jar or Coffee Pot? (with audio)


Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?'
(Isaiah 45:9 – NASB)

Inside the boundaries God has set for you is where the power of God is in your life. Inside the boundaries are the blessings. When you are buffeted for your faults take it patiently, it is God allowing you to get back in bounds (1 Peter 2:20). He lets you see the rough spots, in order that He might smooth them out. Would you rather He didn’t prop you up, and let you fall? A player can make the greatest leaping catch in the history of sport, but if he is out of bounds, it doesn’t count for a score.

Also, don’t complain if He is making you a cookie jar when you want to be a coffee pot, you will get marred and will be discarded for a season, until He can work with you. Clay is a humble piece of earth, but formed in the Master’s hands, and tried in the fires of the kiln, it becomes an instrument meet for the Master’s use. You cannot work with a vessel that won’t hold anything. It is not the vessel that is significant it is what it is carrying. We are only milk cartons, and without any milk, no matter how pretty our carton is, what good are we? When the waiter brings our food, are we concerned about its appearance and taste, or do we remark upon how lovely the plate is? Be grateful that as jars of clay we get to carry this treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7 – NIV).

Part of your problem is that you are resisting Him, and any disobedience is just that, resisting God, and you are blocking His voice. What He is trying to do in your life, which is making you more like Christ, this is what brings power and perspective. No, everything won’t always be smooth sailing, but when you are becoming like Christ you see your troubles through different eyes, and you have less troubles because you don’t have to have the troubles that come by your own fouling up. Focus on the rewards of diligent, faithful obedience, which is fellowship with God, and this sees you through. Pray to let God do His work unhindered by you. If you stay within the boundaries God will let you see beyond them (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 05, 2009

Doors of Desire (with audio)


…I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now)…
(Romans 1:13 – NKJV)

Paul was letting the Romans Christians know of his desire, but circumstances had prevented him from coming to see them. This was not going to stop him, though. Paul’s will was to come to them, but was it God’s will that he should not?

Too many are operating from the Open Door Policy alone, as if it is some definitive way to know God’s will, like the Urim and Thummim of Old Testament times. Today, the way some rely on it, it becomes little more than divination. Of course, if the Lord opens a door, or closes one (something mentioned in the Bible in Matthew 25:10 / Luke 13:25 / Acts 16:6-7 but not applicable in the way the modern church uses it), we need to take a good look. But open doors are not authoritative. Paul prayed for open doors for the gospel, asking for opportunity to spread the good news, yet in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 God had given him an open door which he chose to ignore. Acts 14:27 / Acts 16:9-11 / 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 / Colossians 4:3 – the doors are for preaching the gospel, primarily, not for life choices.

Some want to know the will of God, not to know Him, not to give Him glory, but so as to secure comfort for themselves, and often irrespective of God, divorced from an ongoing relationship. It’s as if we say, yeah sure, God, just give me the bottom-line. Would we want God’s will for us if it meant to go straightforward into a certain death? When Paul knew of God’s will, he didn’t let anything deter him (Acts 20:22-24 / 21:4, 10-14). The will of God isn’t always about avoiding trouble, but that is what we see taught these days, or at least what we believe.

Why are we looking for an open door, and what exactly are we hoping to find? There is little point in pursuing God's will if we are not willing to comply, especially with obedience in the things He has already made known to us. How can we expect to receive more light if we have not responded to the light we have been given? God's guidance subsides when it is unaccompanied by our acceptance (Philippians 3:15-16). We should examine our lives to see if we are disobeying in areas He has already made clear.

God can lead us by bringing us into direct contact with certain needs, but not every cry for help is a call from God. We can assume more burdens than we can carry and spread ourselves so thin that we become ineffective. We must be careful not to let the good become the enemy of the best. Otherwise, we may become victims of desires and inclinations that are not from God. It is better to do a few things well than to multiply mediocrity.

Paul wanted to give and receive fruit from these Roman Christians like he did all others, but he wasn’t going to go until it was the right time, in the right way, and for the right reasons (Philippians 4:17), if ever. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like we think it will or should.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, October 02, 2009

What about Tithing? Part 5


Listen to the audio or you might get the wrong idea. The New Testament teaches grace giving. We will first look at the concept of tithing as seen in the Old Testament, and then discuss how this relates to the New Testament, and what it teaches about giving and stewardship in general.

For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42 – ESV)

How many times have you wondered, or heard someone else wonder if they were supposed to “tithe” based on net or gross income? Well, without even considering whether or not the tithe is a New Testament ideal, we need to discuss something. Regarding your giving, the “net or gross” question shows you are in the wrong ballpark altogether – it is not a question of a duty to be discharged but of a devotion to be discovered (2 Corinthians 9:7).

You don’t have to try and find out exactly the line where you need to start; most are doing that so as to know what they can avoid doing. It’s like the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wanted to know who his neighbor was, not so he could know who to love, but so he could know who he didn’t have to. The same happens when it comes to the matter of giving to the church. It’s not that people don’t want to give too little; it’s that they don’t want to give too much! You could give whatever it is that you feel is your “obligation”, and discharge your “duty” and God still not have your heart. You are commanded to give, but even if you found some imaginary line where God was happy with, it is only a start, not a finish (Luke 17:10).

Okay, now, for those of you just looking for a fight: does the New Testament teach that we must tithe? No, it doesn't. But let me tell you that it does teach that we should give and that we should be cheerful givers. Those that want to wrangle over not having to give or about some imaginary line or limit are not the most cheerful people to be around.

It is about faithfulness, but the bigger item, and the one that you never seem to hear the preachers and teachers talk about, or when they do you go temporarily deaf, is that giving is also a matter of worship. Not obligation, like, “you better give off the gross, dude, or God’s gonna be mad.” No. Giving is worship.

If we love a sports team, we watch their games, we pay to see them at the stadium, we buy their souvenirs, and we wear their apparel, which we paid for. We even dress our little kids in their little team clothes. We wear the shoes that the big stars are wearing, and we learn all the new buzzwords and catch phrases of those whom we worship.

Now follow me here, and realize that giving is a form of and a part of worship. It doesn’t mean that everything we give to we worship, but what is put foremost in our minds, that thing we will give our utmost to. Think about sports teams that you see people love and how they defend and promote them, and don’t you just wish we would do it for Jesus? We root for them even when their season isn’t going so well. We praise them when it is, and we aren’t ashamed of it when they lose a game, we speak of how they will eventually bounce back. We give our money, our time, our energy, and our devotion. Where we give is where we worship. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that is where your heart is (Matthew 6:21). How can you say you don’t have to give and still believe that God has your heart?

I’m not asking you to give more money. Giving more doesn’t necessarily mean you are more devoted. It isn’t the quantity but the quality. So if you are down in cash this month but have an extra amount of time, then give what you have to give. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), what do you talk about the most, Jesus or the football team, or your favorite movie star, or hit song? Whatever it is that has the majority of your attention, that is what has your devotion. What do you think of first thing in the morning?

Let’s get practical, then. Don’t give the church the money for your light bill, but don’t neglect the church just to buy a fancy new light fixture. Own stuff; don’t let it own you. Better yet, realize that you don’t own stuff; it is on loan to you. We do not need to debate whether or not tithing is commanded or even recognized in the New Testament; all that is doing is wrangling over a disputed idea (1 Timothy 6:4).

It isn’t a matter of doctrine; the truth is that for many the simplest way to be disciplined is by giving the first 10 percent right off the top, and that is why we see this principle used in the church today. We don’t have to argue, but if you were to look at those that would teach “against” tithing, or those who try and justify why they don’t need to give you might be surprised at what you see and the lack of discipline in their lives. If you are giving more than 10 percent but not “tithing” per se, wonderful, but in any event make sure you are honoring God by giving Him your heart, and that would include your wallet.

Sowing out of a desire for gain will get you the gain all right, but it won’t be what you expect (Galatians 6:7 / 1 Timothy 6:5-10). Don’t use tithing as a means to an end, the end being your own desire for wealth (Ezekiel 33:31). Don’t turn tithing into a work and don’t use giving to the church to dismiss your obligations to the IRS or from taking care of your sick relatives or paying your bills and think that God is pleased with this, He isn’t (Isaiah 29:13 / Mark 7:6-13).

The concept of giving in the New Testament is not some rule we have to keep in order to keep God off our back or to curry favor with God, but so we will put first things first, and God will help us take care of the rest. It shouldn’t make you give less, but want to give more.

Giving is a blessing not a burden, but please don’t give out of compulsion. You can’t give because you feel forced and expect God to understand. As long as you see it as a burden it will not have the effect you desire. God knows your heart, and you can give and give and give, but if you don’t do it out of love, it will profit you nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can give without loving but we can’t love without giving.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, October 01, 2009

What about Tithing? Part 4


Listen to the audio or you might get the wrong idea. The New Testament teaches grace giving. We will first look at the concept of tithing as seen in the Old Testament, and then discuss how this relates to the New Testament, and what it teaches about giving and stewardship in general.

Deuteronomy 14 principle of provision (vs.22ff)

• There was a yearly trip to make the tithe and they ate part of it (joyful feast)

• You learn to fear God by learning to trust Him

• A portion goes to Levites

• Those who had too much to carry could bring cash to be converted later

• Special offering every three years as benevolence for the marginalized

• Blessing from God for obedience (giving to God by giving to people)

• God provides for His people through His people.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©