Friday, February 26, 2010

Called to be Saints (Radio / Podcast)

…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, February 25, 2010

Building Code (Radio / Podcast)

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, February 24, 2010

Bound to be Free (Radio / Podcast)

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, February 23, 2010

Blameless not Sinless (Radio / Podcast)

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, February 22, 2010

Behold His Beauty (Radio / Podcast)

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, February 19, 2010

The Altar of Adrenaline (Radio / Podcast)

…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, February 18, 2010

I’m On Fire! (Radio / Podcast)

…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, February 17, 2010

All Dream and No Steam (Radio / Podcast)

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, February 16, 2010

Cookie Jar or Coffee Pot? (Radio / Podcast)

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, February 15, 2010

Doors of Desire (Radio / Podcast)

…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, February 12, 2010

What about Tithing? (Pt.5 - Radio / Podcast)

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, February 11, 2010

What about Tithing? (Pt.4 - Radio / Podcast)

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”©

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What about Tithing? (Pt.3 - Radio / Podcast)

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.

Leviticus 27principle of purpose (vs.30)

• Tithing became part of the Law, like a tax, so as to provide income for the priests and for the routine functioning of the nation of Israel.

• This text in chapter 27 is very specific about what items are to be given.

• Numbers 18:21-32 / 2 Chronicles 31:4-18 confirm that part of the purpose of the tithe was to support the spiritual leadership. (cf. Luke 10:7 / 1 Corinthians 9:11-14 / Galatians 6:6 / 1 Timothy 5:18). The Levites were also given cities (Numbers 35:1-8).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

What about Tithing? (Pt.2 - Radio / Podcast)

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.

Genesis 28principle of stewardship (vs.13-15, 20-22)

• Jacob recognizes that all he has been blessed with has been given by God.

• God owns it, we use it, and we give some directly for God’s use.

• It is not a transfer of wealth, as if we give God a tenth of what is ours, it is an acknowledgement of who is the actual owner, not that we have produced, but that God has given us these gifts.

• We worship with what we have been given, for it is all from God. God entrusts us with all He has given us, and we recognize the giver and His control by giving off the top.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, February 08, 2010

What about Tithing? (Pt.1- Radio / Podcast)

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.

Genesis 14principle of thankfulness (vs.18-20)

• Abraham gives a tenth to the priest Melchizedek in light of the victory he had just experienced. Abraham is giving as a response to God. (cf. Hebrews 7:1-4)

• However, it is not suggested here or mentioned anywhere else that we are to give a tenth because of some victory.

• It is not mentioned anywhere at all that we give a tenth to stir God to give us a victory or to spur Him to some action on our behalf.

• Compare Abraham’s response to the King of Salem vs. the King of Sodom (vs.21-24)

• It is about a grateful heart for what God has already done, and in Christ, we have been given the blessing of Abraham, blessed with all spiritual blessings, etc…

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Power of Praise? (Radio / Podcast)

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
(2 Chronicles 20:22 – ESV)

Many people talk of or teach on the power of praise. They often use this passage from 2 Chronicles to “prove” their point. Now there may be a power of praise, but is this really what this passage is teaching us? Lets look at the context by giving a short synopsis of what was going on.

2 Chronicles 20:1-2 – The land was under invasion from several enemies.
2 Chronicles 20:3-13 – Jehoshaphat & the people seek God by fasting and prayer.
2 Chronicles 20:14-17 – They receive the promise of victory by prophecy.
2 Chronicles 20:18-19 – The people fell down in worship, the priests rose up and praised God.
2 Chronicles 20:20-25 – The king rallies everyone, appoints singers to go before the army, and as they praise God the enemies are overthrown, and the spoil is abundant.
2 Chronicles 20:26-30 – They give thanks for the deliverance and for the blessings, they return to Jerusalem with music, and there is peace.

Now there is no doubt that praise is a main element in this story. However, many look at verse 22 and think they see some secret power of praise. Yet this victory was not about some power of praise it was about the power of God predicated upon the repentance we see beginning in 2 Chronicles 19:4, and continued with the prophecy of victory and the people’s worship. It was not because they began to sing and praise but at the same time that they began to sing and praise. They turned to the Lord in repentance, and then they received word that God was going to deliver them, and they praised as God did His deliverance. It wasn’t that they’d never thought of praise, and that then God gave them some revelation about praise warfare, and that now we can all enjoy the blessing of that. It is not as if praise is the answer to all our problems.

No, this wasn’t a revelation of praise warfare, as if we can just sing our way out of sin, without any reference to or regard for repentance from sin. This wasn’t some magic formula given that we now apply universally to all our situations. Indeed, praise is a weapon of sorts, it is definitely part of the process, but it must be the outflow of an understanding of grace, and a natural consequence of having turned to the Lord in repentance. Otherwise praise IS NOT the answer to all your problems, and you cannot simply sing your way out of sin.

They turned to the Lord in repentance, and then they received the message, and the message was about the fact God was going to deliver them, not about how praise was going to deliver them. The message God may give to you may be of a different sort, but then we praise as an outcome of that. We must also turn to the Lord in repentance first, and then receive the message of victory the Bible declares, and then we can praise as God does His work. The thing to notice in this passage is not that praise won them the victory but that they turned to God and praised because He was going to deliver them. They didn’t praise to get something, they praised because they had already been promised it and were in the midst of getting it.

This doesn’t mean we look for some obscure promise in the Bible, and then if we want it we can “activate” it by praising God for it. No, this is simply a moment in the grand scheme, a slice of redemptive history. The lesson for us is that we should turn to God when we are surrounded by enemies, which spiritually speaking, is always. The world, the flesh, and the devil are always on the offensive against us. Then when God gives us a victory, we should praise His name. The power of praise is about recognizing the power of God. We should always be giving thanks to and praising God. We praise, not to get something, but because He is something.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Why the Answer Key is Wrong (Radio / Podcast)

…let us run with patience the race that is set before us
(Hebrews 12:1)

One of the effects of the fall of man into sin is a manifest lack of patience. This has played itself out in every life ever lived since Adam and Eve. We want what we want, and we want it now. The secular media, advertising agencies, marketers, magazines, moviemakers, and just about everybody is guilty of making this the dominant trend in our thinking. The voices are endless. “Time is wasting, what are you waiting for?” “We have got what you’re looking for.” “No need to struggle, we’ve got the solution!” We are all willing victims. No one, it seems, is innocent or invulnerable to the onslaught of “now”.

This helps to explain the explosion of the get rich quick schemes, the lottery, the parade of late night infomercials, and so forth. It also helps explain the lure of cheating in the classroom, the bedroom, the boardroom, and the ball field. It has lead to the proliferation of self-help books, wellness seminars, and New Age mysticism. People are willing to try anything, as long as it’s not the same old, tried and true method of working hard. Everybody is looking for a quick fix, or at least the way to get what we want with the least amount of effort. Our attention spans have been so manipulated that they won’t let us take the time to really learn anything.

The Christian is just as vulnerable to this lack of patience, even when trying to learn about God and His ways. Having to listen to a sermon over twenty minutes, or having to pray for more than fifteen would probably put most of us into a deep sleep these days. An example that might hit closer to home with believers is the tendency to want to have the answers without having to struggle with the questions. That is why we see so much of the “7 principles of power”, or “10 steps to success”, or “5 keys to kingdom living”, etc., etc. Having the answers alone without knowing how to figure out the questions is not all it is cracked up to be, however. Consider the following thoughts.

If I told you that the earth was 93 million miles away from the sun, you would have the information you needed to answer that question, “how far is the earth from the sun?” You could then use this information in a social situation, or a classroom situation, or whatever, or whenever the topic arose. However, if someone were to proceed to ask you, “How do you know this?” do you think they would be satisfied to hear you answer, “well, so and so told me”, or “I read it in a book?” No, they wouldn’t, or even if they were, this knowledge only gets you so far. However, if you knew how to figure out for yourself the distance, you could use this knowledge to figure out the distance from the earth of other planets, and this knowledge could help you to find out other things as well.

In the Christian this idea helps us understand why we must struggle with sin, rather than just expect the desire to be taken away. We want the “thing” to just go away, but it doesn’t. Surely, some Christians have been given a special mercy by God to have an instant moment of sanctifying grace where they no longer desire to do that “thing”, but this is not the normal occurrence. Too often we see those whom have had a crisis experience where they were instantly delivered of this or that vice try and teach others that all they have to do is believe and they will also be delivered. Let go and let God, they might say. When it doesn’t work, the defeated Christian is thrown back into a state of disbelief, either in his faith or his God. This need not and should not be. There is a reason we don’t get the “answer” right away. God wants us to struggle with the questions first.

You see if we were to have our answer before we understood the problem, all we would do is have a surface solution. When the real, root problem surfaces again in some other form, if all we have done is rely on the answer key, all we can do is attack the problem on the surface again, and it will pop up again and again until we lay the axe to the root. Having to struggle with the questions will inculcate the discipline we need in life to be able to survive the other struggles we may and we will face. “Inculcate” means to instill: did you look it up? Would you have if you didn’t know it? Will it become part of your vocabulary?

It is not the answer key itself that is wrong, but having the answer without understanding the problem is what is wrong. This is why cheating on a test only cheats you out of greater knowledge. You may get the answer right this time, but when the next time comes and you need the prior knowledge to find out the answer, you are going to be in trouble. It is like having the answer to a calculus problem, versus being able to understand calculus itself. See the tremendous difference?

There is no “secret” of spirituality or “formula” for faith. There is a plan, and it involves staying the course, walking the narrow path. We depend on Jesus for our life, and our Father for our daily bread. The Holy Spirit will lead us into a more passionate relationship with God if we will only take the time to struggle with the questions. Then we may learn lessons that will enable us to overcome our problems at the root level. It’s the difference between a brief and a broad victory.

Start a fire, and be warm for a day.

Stay on fire, and be warm for life.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Apostasy Avenue (Radio / Podcast)

The LORD has said to you, O remnant of Judah, 'Do not go to Egypt.'
(Jeremiah 42:19 – ESV)

In Jeremiah 41, Jerusalem had fallen, and the governor that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed over it was murdered by one of the remnant Jews. They feared for their lives (vs.18), and also believed that they were right in wanting to have a prince of the house of David, and Ishmael was of the royal family (vs. 1). How often do we think our position protects us from having to go through judgment, or trials, and how often are we deceived into believing we are actually fighting for a just and holy cause when we are really just blinded by our own esteem for ourselves?

In Jeremiah 42, the people wanted to hear God’s Word from God’s prophet, but not so as to actually obey, but rather, that God might sanction what they had already determined to do. Of course, something like that has never happened to us, we would never think of such a thing, would we? Jeremiah didn’t receive the Word for 10 days (vs. 7). The delay was designed to test the sincerity of their professed willingness to obey (vs. 5-6), and that they should have time to commit their wills to obedience. God told them through Jeremiah that He would protect, preserve, and eventually promote them through the trial (vs.10-12). God made it perfectly clear that they were not to go to Egypt (vs.14-19), but He knew that their hearts were hypocritical (vs.20-21) and declared their doomed destiny (vs.22).

In Jeremiah 43, the people were falling fast into apostasy. They turned on the Word of God through the prophet (vs. 2). They didn’t obey and went into Egypt (vs.7), and took Jeremiah with them. It reminds us of how they probably thought that having God’s prophet with them would be like having God’s blessing with them. This is using God’s tools like a magic weapon of sorts, like the Israelites did with the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4).

In Jeremiah 44, what happened to these people that went into Egypt is that they fell into total apostasy, they began blatant idolatry, and became deceived in so many ways that they were completely blinded to the truth of God’s Word (vs.17-19). The people were so blind and hardhearted that they actually believed that serving other gods was their ticket to prosperity, and that disobedience was the way to safety and security. Jeremiah let them know that God in His longsuffering had let them go until their iniquity was fully ripe, and that it was their disobedience that lead to their lack, not leaving off the service to other gods (vs.21-23).

This is what happens when we fail to go to the Cross. We fail to suffer the death of the flesh, and our worship becomes as it did for these that went to Egypt, it becomes vain and idolatrous, without our even realizing it. This is what happened to others whose pride eventually lead to their downfall, those who thought that they could worship God “any old way they felt like”. Results and relationships cloud their judgment and discernment.

Adam saw Eve eat the apple, but he still had a choice. He could have chosen not to eat of the apple himself. Instead, he chose his relationship with his wife over his relationship with God and His Word. This is why Jesus told us that if someone wouldn’t hate their family compared to Him, they couldn’t be His disciple (Luke 14:26).

Think about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. They relied on their relationship to their father Aaron and as priests to protect them from having to worship in the way God intended for the “others”.

How about Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31 / 12:20, 25-33 / 13:34)? God gave him the 10 northern tribes, yet he thought that he could establish a different place and different methods of worship. They didn’t start out thinking those idols were other gods, they worshipped them as Jehovah, just as Aaron and the Israelites did while Moses was on Sinai.

King Uzziah was a great and godly king, but his results lifted up his heart, and he thought his relationship with the Lord meant that he could act as priest as well as king (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 15-16). He paid dearly.

A lesson is this: we must stay in a repentant attitude, and if God says that we are to do something in a certain way, then we are unwise, unrepentant, and rebellious to do otherwise. It will lead to deception and idolatry, where we will think we are doing right but we are sincerely wrong. Sincerity is no substitute for truth, and without truth, we are headed straight down Apostasy Avenue.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Seeker Friendly Connection (Radio / Podcast)

…And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you…And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
(2 Corinthians 12:14-15 – ESV)

Surely as Christians we want to connect with people, but the best way to do that is to make sure we are connected to God first. That may bring an “of course” thought in your mind, but hear me out. It is true that showing special interest makes people feel special and gets special results. Most often, if you give it your best it will bring out their best. However, you have to remember to be looking to give not get, otherwise you will be disappointed. We often get angry because we feel we have given extras but it went unrecognized. We need to heed the lesson God is teaching us through the Apostle Paul. Pour yourself out to people, but go further than the world would and pour out your expectations as well, that is learning of Christ as Paul had done. It is when we can be poured out, spent, and not appreciated that we connect with God in a very real way.

I seek not yours but you – this is the testimony of every godly minister. They do not serve for what they can get from God’s people, but for what they can give to God’s people. Now some think they are seeking to give but they are still seeking to get, not money but recognition, approval, validation from men. Faithfulness is more important than friendliness. We do this by seeking to be connected to God, to be faithful to His Word, before we seek connection with men. A minister should be able to say that he is not seeking your approval but seeking your improvement.

This will lead to the right kind of burden, a burden to build, in the right way. Some can build the number of members, but God wants to build the members in our numbers. Some focus on church growth but God wants to focus on people growth, not numbers but godliness, not the quantity but the quality. Numbers can be wonderful if more are truly getting connected with God in a deeper way. However, chasing numbers just for the sake of more may mean more are connected overall but not percentage wise, and not very deep either. It is a mile wide and an inch deep, and leads to being led astray by chasing and feeding the monster of ministry. Before God is interested in any Christian’s ministry, He is interested in the minister.

When someone is talking with you and you are really listening intently they usually can tell and are eager to share more about themselves. When you show interest others become interested, and in a sense, in obeying God, it works a lot like that. If we are interested in His way, He shows us more of it more clearly. He is the only One who won’t ever ignore you when you truly seek Him. When you pour out to God He will always pour back on you.

Paul was defending his ways before the Corinthians, who had approved of false apostles and turned away from him. He says, “I’ll tell you about great and marvelous things I have seen and done, things those “super apostles” can’t even dream of let alone demonstrate. Now God hasn’t rid me of this thorn and you all run after the false apostles and despise me, and yet I still will be spent for you. That is what is going on that is what it is all about. They care about themselves, I care about you, and the poor among you, that is why I collect funds, for them, not me.”

Here we see Paul poured out and even doing so if it meant they loved him less. He will keep spending even if they don’t spend, he will keep pouring in even if it seems unfruitful to him. We can give, and give in any number of ways. But do we resent it when we give or serve? A good way to measure this is to see our reaction when our service is unappreciated. Do we resent it? If Paul’s service was unappreciated by the Corinthian Christians, he did not resent it. We need to learn to give where we can get nothing back, to lay up treasures in heaven, to trust God that He is watching our labor. Paul cared about God firstly and was poured out to Him and that is how he stayed connected even through the trials of the thorn and the anguish of being turned away.

What is worse, feeling the pain of the physical or suffering the anguish when you try and help someone and they despise you for it? For example, when your children turn from you, or think of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, or Paul understanding what the sovereignty of God meant in dealing with the Jews. Would you do it then? Would you serve God anyway, even if it meant He didn’t rescue you, didn’t revive you, didn’t restore you, and didn’t reconcile you to your loved ones? Well, that is the place where God works. That is part of the fellowship of His sufferings. Is He worth it? Yes He surely is, and when you can get to that place you will see God work like no other way you’ve known.

Pleading prayer is a start. Paul pleaded for the thorn to go away but it wouldn’t and he still was willing to sacrifice for the Corinthians. Even through God did not help him in the way he wanted, and those he was called to minister to even turned on him, still he served. That is consecration. That is powerful. That is like Christ, and that is the Holy Spirit living through you; that is connecting to God’s heart.

That is how Jesus was, how Paul was, how I hope to be, and what I am encouraging you to be like. Poured out; this is the example I am exhorting you to follow. Now I am no Apostle Paul, and Paul was only a shadow of Jesus Christ, it is Him we look to as our ultimate example, and it is only Him that can empower us to live this way. He will do it if we will get connected.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, February 01, 2010

God’s Dress Code (Radio / Podcast)

…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted
(Luke 18:14 – ESV)

Humility is God’s dress code standard for the church. Those that come before God clothed with humility can wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness (cf. Jeremiah 23:6), and leave justified in God’s sight. As an illustration, Luke 18:9-14 is the quintessential summary of the difference between those whom God will justify and those that seek to justify themselves.

I am often asked what the dress code of our church is. “Can we wear jeans, can ladies wear pants, do we have to wear a tie, and will we feel out of place if we don’t dress up?” I am thankful for this because it gives me an opportunity to address the real issue. I say, “The only thing we ask is that you come clothed with humility.”

Pride was the first sin, the sin of Satan. It was the “genesis” of sin if you will (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14 / Ezekiel 28:11-19). This mother of all sins has filtered down to our age and remains as the great wall between man and God (1 John 2:16), between a righteousness that saves and one that doesn’t. It is a lack of humility that keeps the great mass of people from faith and salvation.

The Scriptures are replete with the notion that God hates pride and loves humility. Pride is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:17), and humility is absolutely necessary for salvation. Many teachings touch on this theme in varying ways (cf. Luke 10:25-37 / Psalm 34:2 / Isaiah 57:15, 66:2). Certainly this is true of the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

Self-righteous sin takes the form of a two-pronged pride. Firstly, like the people who are using the standards of others to determine what to wear to church, the self righteous use a comparison with others as the standard of their own righteousness. The Pharisee looked at other people and determined he was doing the Lord’s will.

Many in the church today, as well as those who don’t think they need God, think that because they are “ahead of the pack”, that this makes them righteous. But the standard for righteousness to which the Bible directs us is not that of other people but that of God. The focus is wrong.

Secondly, while comparing ourselves with others is not right, neither is comparing one’s self with his own self. Even if we have made great strides in our walk with God, and lived a more holy life, it is not that life that will justify us before God. Again, the focus is wrong.

The world follows suit. Self-help, self-improvement, self-empowerment, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-actualization, “self” magazines, it goes on and on, the great focus of humanity is on self. Even in the church we often see teaching geared toward becoming a better or more successful person rather than on the person of Jesus Christ.

It seems to be about what God has done in us, rather than on what God has done for us. We feel as if we “do our best” that this sincere effort is what justifies us. This is precisely what the Pharisee thought. The world would applaud this man today, probably calling him a “true saint” or “one of God’s choice servants”.

No matter how good we are, however, it can never be good enough. What the Pharisee said about himself was true, but the Bible says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The standard is the perfect righteousness of Jesus, who said, “Be ye perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).”

Paul spoke to both sides of self-righteousness when he said, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).”

Often overlooked is the fact that when the Pharisee prayed he was thanking God. He was not saying how great he was by himself. He had a sense of humility, but not true humility. He knew he was not able to do good works on his own, but felt that these justified him. God does indeed develop righteousness in everyone to whom he imputes righteousness (Romans 8:1-4 / Philippians 1:6), but we never achieve perfection in this life. Works are the fruit, not the root of justification (Ephesians 2:10).

This is the great danger, the teaching that the imparted righteousness whereby we can indeed do good works is the grounds of our justification, instead of the imputed righteousness of Christ to our account. Our good works give evidence to our faith (Matthew 7:20 / James 2:18) but they do not save us (Romans 3:20). This is subtle but is explained by saying that for some to justify is to make righteous rather than to declare righteous. The difference is the difference between a saving faith that relies on an external atonement for sin and a misplaced faith that relies in an internal abatement of sin.

The snare of self-righteousness makes many feel or claim to be sanctified when they are only sanctimonious. The truth is we must continue to walk in repentance and faith even after we have been justified. Martin Luther, in writing the first of his ninety-five theses said that the whole life of a believer should be repentance.

We should be thankful that we have been given a measure of freedom from the power of sin in this life, but we must be careful to never equate this with our righteous standing before God. You are not to thank God for your righteousness compared to others, but thank Him for His righteousness accredited to you because of the Atonement.

In Christ we are righteous, yes, but being “in Christ” is the key. Considering our spiritual state, it has been said that the more light we have, the more dust we see. It isn’t about self-loathing. The Church’s dress code deals with whether we see with our true condition before God or does the lens we view ourselves from have a “wrong focus”.

The question is, simply, “Are you wearing the right glasses?”

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©