Friday, November 30, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
A river watered the garden and then flowed out of Eden and divided into four branches. The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there. ~ Genesis 2:10-12
The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But God warned him, "You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die." ~ Genesis 2:15-17
Eden was glorious. Rivers, vegetation that flourished, fruit that exploded with taste and beauty. Gems, fragrance, companionship and interpersonal dialog with the Almighty. Yet, in the midst of the perfection and beauty… boundaries.
God placed a perimeter around a tree in the center. It would have been much easier if this tree had been despicable. But I sense that this was a fabulous tree, with radiant and attractive fruit. Even the name of the tree was powerful and magnetic: “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” It might have been better if God had named it something like: “the death-delivering, life- sucking, relationship-destroying, God-separating weed.” But no, this was not His plan.
Everything about this tree was attractive, and to make matters worse, it was unavoidable… the middle.
I would guess that even the fruit tasted good. There was no allergic reaction, no instant vomiting, no repulsive sensation... just the poison of the soul, sin. This is exactly why sin is sin. It's often not hideous, in fact, it may be downright beautiful and accessible, but it’s also wrong. It's on the other side of the boundary.
The garden has so much that's right, so much that's glorious and life giving... but there is still the tree. The one beautiful tree in the middle. And with the tree, a whisper, the tantalizing promise, the lie… “You will not really die.”
The fruit on the tree in the middle of the garden is beautiful. It even tastes good. But it will lead to separation, and pain, and disappointment, and stupid little fig-leaf excuses for an existence… and to death. “Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.” ~ Genesis 5:5
The garden or the tree? Inside the boundaries or out? God's masterpiece turned loose to reject Him, or, to bring Him glory and to enjoy Him forever. When we start defending the tree instead of enjoying the garden then we'll know that we're really naked.
Reject the whisper... enjoy the garden.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Luke #45 – Twisted
“And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto Him, ‘If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee: And in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.’ And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’” (Luke 4:9-12 – King James Version).
When my wife an I were baby Christians we were having a conversation on how much we were to put into serving God. Somewhere along my wife’s childhood someone taught her about serving and giving in a goofed up way. Some preacher or teacher told her that giving to God meant giving a tenth of all she had; a tenth of her talents, a tenth of her material resources and a tenth of her time. PHOOEY! She said that they even used Scripture to support that whacked out thinking. The only Scripture I could find that would lead someone to think that would be Genesis 28:22 which states, “And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee” (KJV). Now be sure of this my friends, that verse was not talking about a tenth of each part of our lives, but was talking about a tenth of Jacob’s material resources. To think we could only give God a tenth of our time would be crazy! For the record, my wife got straightened out on that whole mess.
Friend, let me tell you something, and hear me clearly, we cannot afford to twist Scripture. The temptation is to look at God’s Word and make it say what we already believe or what we want to hear. When we approach Scripture we cannot change it, we must let it show us how we are to change. In doing that we will encounter Scripture that we don’t like; it will fly in the face of things we enjoy doing or in attitudes or character traits that we have had for years.
Even Satan used Scripture in trying to tempt Jesus. In the above passage Satan MISQUOTES Psalm 91:11-12 in this way: “He shall give his angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee: And in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” It’s original, and right, rendering reads thusly: “For He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (KJV). The difference is that Satan left off “to keep thee in all thy ways”. That’s the difference in words, but the big difference is in intent. The original is an assurance of God’s protection for those who trust. Satan uses the Scripture to tempt Jesus to dare God, which is the opposite of trusting.
That’s the same kind of mess that Satan did in the garden when he tempted Adam and Eve. It’s deceptive and tricky and just the kind of thing that Satan does to throw God’s people off of track. Of course, Jesus did not fall for it; He knew Scripture and how to apply it properly.
The only way we will be able to mimic Christ on this account is if we know Scripture too. We must be in the Word constantly; searching it out and finding what it really means. I always read and study the Scripture my pastor preaches on each Sunday. Sure, I trust my pastor and I trust what he says, but I want to check it out for myself. I would imagine that rather than being agitated that I check behind him, my pastor would commend me.
We cannot afford to be fooled when it comes to God’s word, nor can we afford to fool ourselves. We cannot twist God’s word to suit what we want or how we already feel. We must have our minds renewed and be transformed daily by being challenged by truths from God’s word. Satan wants us to get off track and one of his most subtle tools is deception through the Word of God. Be careful, be watchful and be studious.
"Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:37).
The people of Israel, in spite of all God had done for them, continually rebelled against Him, even turning to other gods. One might think God would have destroyed them and started again, but He had made a promise first to Abraham, then to Isaac, and then to Jacob, that this nation would be His special people, and He would not break that promise.
In our text God reveals the "conditions" under which He would cast off Israel, but they are such that there is no possibility of their being met.
"If heaven above can be measured. . . ." Neither Abraham nor Jeremiah could have had any concept of the number of stars or the depth of space. Now, with modern telescopes, we see unthinkable distances, and even farther and farther as our technology increases. Estimates of the radius of the universe now stand at around 15-20 billion light years, and no end is in sight.
"If the foundations of the earth |can be| searched out beneath. . . ." Sometimes scientists claim they know more about the sun than they do the earth. But in reality, only one percent of the earth's radius has been explored. The pressures and temperatures which exist deep inside the earth are unthinkably great, and we don't even know how matter acts under those conditions. The promise to Israel is secure.
Scripture is likewise full of "exceeding great and precious promises" (II Peter 1:4) made to the believer. Our text indicates God's attitudes toward His promises. We need not worry that He will keep His Word. JDM
Friday, November 09, 2007
Luke #44 – Fighting Temptation
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from
Back to my roadside breakdown...as I stood on the side of the road, I begin to think about my recent car history. The previous summer my Nissan just up and quit on me. When it was towed to the mechanic, he had no idea what went wrong with the car, but it was obvious that it would not run any more. Before and after my Nissan broke down I had trouble with my truck. On the first occasion a tie rod broke and left me and Katie stranded on the roadside. On the second occasion the right wheel bearing had a melt down. As I said before, when all the distractions were removed, Satan showed up and made it personal. He was tempting my mind by saying, “Here you are, serving God, and all you have for that is trouble. And you thought God would take care of you?” The Holy Spirit recalled Romans 8:28.
Every time I read this account of Jesus temptation in the wilderness I carefully take note of how Jesus battled those temptations; He did it with Scripture. Satan used Scripture too, but He twisted it (more on that tomorrow!). Whatever the devil said to Jesus, Jesus countered it with God's word. We should note that Jesus was filled with the Spirit. The Spirit was there, giving recall of Scripture and leading Jesus in recognizing the temptations and properly applying the Word.
Those are the same two ingredients we need in fighting temptation. We need to be filled with the Spirit and we need to apply God's word. To further illustrate this, let's go back to the roadside. As I said, the devil showed up and tried to get me to look at my circumstances; he wanted me to question God's provision and love for me. Romans 8:28 says that God work even bad situations out for good for those who love Him and have been called for His purposes. Right behind that, the Spirit recalled Matthew 28:20, where Jesus promised to always be with us. No part of that promise says that we will not experience difficult times, but it does promise that Christ will be with us. I also remembered the words of the apostle Paul who said nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35). I begin to pray to God and to resist Satan by reminding that scoundrel of God's promises. Pretty soon, Satan left me alone on that temptation.
I could go on and on, but the point is that the way to deal with temptation is by confronting Satan with God’s truths. He can’t handle it and he can’t defeat it! That and the power of the Holy Spirit at work both in and through believers stymie Satan’s attempts to cause us to sin. Now…we need to walk in the Spirit and we also need to study God’s word. King David said “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” because he understood that was the way to stick to holiness and to avoid sin (Psalm 119:11 – NKJV).How do you battle temptation? Do you simply try to grit your teeth and say “I think I can. I think I can.”? If we try to fight temptation in our own power, we will succeed only sporadically at best. Fighting temptation can be done! Will you accept God’s promises, apply His truths, and walk in the Spirit? There lies the keys to victory!
“For the time is come that judgment begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17).
There is a terrible day of judgment coming for those who reject Christ, but for those who do believe the gospel and trust the Lord Jesus for salvation, “there is therefore now no condemnation [i.e., judgment]” (Romans 8:1). Yet our text tells us that judgment actually begins with those who obey the gospel! This apparent contradiction vanishes when one realizes that it is merely for the purpose of preparing those who are already saved to serve Him in eternity.
When a believer sins, he should judge and confess that sin. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (I Corinthians 11:31), and God will forgive (I John 1:9). If he does not, however, the next phase of judgment is the chastening of God. “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (I Corinthians 11:32). The classic passage on the believers chastening (Hebrews 12:5–11) concludes with the assurance that its purpose is to yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).
But when such chastening fails to work, the next judgment may even be physical death. “There is a sin unto death” (I John 5:16). “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Corinthians 5:5).
Finally, all Christians must “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (II Corinthians 5:10), where “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). There, some “shall suffer loss.” Nevertheless, each person at this judgment “shall be saved” (I Corinthians 3:14,15). But, as our text continues, “if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Peter 4:18). HMM
Taken in its entirety from Institution for Creation Research webpage:
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Luke #43 – Three Keys to Being Wholly Well
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from
Johnny Smith used to explain the whole wellness of a person using an upside down triangle; he said he learned the concept from the School for Pastoral Care. On the bottom point of the triangle Mr. Smith would write “spiritual”. On the top left point he would write “physical”. On the top right he would write “mental / emotional”. He would tell us that a sick body will affect the mind and the spirit. He would say that an emotional sickness or being mentally unwell will affect both the spirit and the body. Of course we all know that if a person is spiritually sick both the body and the mind will be affected. Johnny would say that being spiritually well is the foundation for whole wellness, but he would also say that we often overlook the other two areas.
If we realize this delicate balance in the area of wellness, then it would be logical to look at each area in the light of what makes them most sick; and that is sin. Our Lord Jesus was thoroughly tempted in the wilderness and we can see how He was tempted physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Verse 3 says that Satan tempted Jesus by asking Him to turn the stones in bread. The temptation was to satisfy Himself with a need rather than trusting God for provision. Often our physical temptations are different. Sure, we are tempted to concentrate on our needs rather than concentrate on God, but we do something else physically that is sinful. We overemphasize pleasure. Pleasure is when the body is getting what it wants. SOMETIMES what we want and need are the same thing. I am sure Jesus was hungry and WANTED bread and if He’d not eaten in forty days I am sure He NEEDED bread. But our body often craves things that we don’t need such as alcohol, sex, drugs, etc. Our body may also be sinfully lazy and we may fall to the temptation to do nothing but lie around and sleep. The point here is this; we are often physically tempted to concentrate on pleasing our bodies. We need to be aware that Satan is a tempter in this area and to constantly analyze ourselves. Do we concentrate on pleasure too much? Are we susceptible to physical temptation?
Our minds are often tempted. In verses 6 and 7 Satan offered Jesus a short cut; instead of winning the world with the cross Satan offered his earthly kingdom if Jesus would bow to him. That was a mental temptation. It was a choice between the right way and the easy way. We too have many mental temptations. We have choices every day; several involve taking the easy way or taking the right way. Think about tax season; if we render unto Caesar that which is his we will have to do what is right, not what is easy. We have thousands of mental decisions every day; we must decide to do what is right, not what is easy many times a day. Happiness can be defined as the mind getting what it wants. Human beings will often compromise morality and holiness to find happiness. We cannot afford to do that. When we compromise what is right for the sake of happiness, we succumb to temptation. When we succumb to temptation, we sin. When we sin, we become unwell. Do we fall often to mental temptations? Do we sacrifice holiness for happiness?
Finally, Jesus was tempted spiritually. In verses 9-11 Satan tempted Jesus to tempt God. Satan wanted Jesus to prove Himself; he wanted Christ to dare God. Faith is not daring God; it is waiting patiently, doing His will, and cooperating with God’s plan (OVER our agenda). GOOD GRIEF! How many times a day do we struggle with that? People, by our very nature, are impatient plan makers. By that I mean we don’t want to wait and we don’t want to follow anyone’s plans but our own. We are rebellious too. We don’t want to obey anyone, unless what they are telling us to do is already what we want to do. Do we wait patiently on God? Do we dare God to prove Himself? Do we obey Him and follow His plan?If we are to be wholly well and fully balanced we need to realize that temptation comes physically, mentally, and spiritually. We need to be ready. We need to be aware. We need to NOT ignore any area and be ready to fight the good fight against temptation. Temptation is opportunity; sin occurs when those opportunities are fulfilled. Let’s be well…wholly well. Realize and resist temptation; your health depends on it!
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Luke #42 – Deceiving Temptations
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from
Let’s look at that in light of Jesus wilderness temptation. There are recorded three temptations Jesus experienced after the period of forty days fasting that illustrate that. Of course, Jesus was tempted the entire forty days, but we only have these three temptations to look at specifically.
The first way that Satan will use subtlety is that he will tempt us with what we need. In verse three, knowing Jesus was hungry, Satan tells Jesus to turn rocks into bread. Of course, Jesus indicates that bread is not our greatest need with the statement “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Food is a need; one of the basic necessities of life. I think a lot of folks get bent out of shape at on Sundays when the preacher is still preaching and they are hungry. Is that a temptation? Does taking focus off of God because the belly is rumbling constitute sin? I think Jesus’ answer is clear, even the most important bodily needs should not take precedent over God. Matthew tells us that if we keep our focus on God, He’ll take care of our needs. How about this…are we ever tempted with other needs? Sure, I think so; we need shelter, but how many times do we buy houses that are too big for us and struggle under the weight of the payments? That’s bad stewardship! Clothing is a need, but we exercise bad stewardship and vanity in that many times. We often buy clothes that are far too expensive so we can “look good” or “fit in” with the crowd. The object is to be clothed, not exalt our status. I could go on and on, but the point is clear; Satan WILL tempt us with things we need. Be watchful!
The next thing we find is that Satan will tempt us with what we will get. In verse five Satan tempts Jesus by offering Him the world as a kingdom. Lest we forget, Jesus is God! He made the world! It’s already His and on the cross He bought it back again; He redeemed it. Satan tempted Jesus to shortcut that process; avoid the cross. The devil tempts us with the same kind of things. Most notable in my mind is the temptation to have sex outside of marital bonds. Sex is a beautiful gift from God and if we wait until we are married, it is even more beautiful AND it honors God AND it keeps us from disobeying Him. I also think of gambling; we’d get money if we’d only work, but the devil tempts us with shortcuts; the easy way out. There are no easy ways out when it comes to honoring God. Even in the
Lastly, Satan will tempt us with what is already ours. In verses 10-11 Satan tells Jesus to jump from the top of the temple to prove that God would care for Him. Jesus response was to tell the devil that we are not to tempt God; we are not to try to make God prove Himself. For us, He’s already done that by giving Christ on the cross. Too many times we come to God with “if you…” prayers. What I mean is that we pray saying “If you…” do such and such then I will do such and such. God’s love was extended to us while we were still in our sins. His love and provision are ours already; we do not need to try to get Him to prove it over and over by demanding that things from Him. Be watchful!
Watch out for Satan. His temptations are often very deceiving. We need to be very alert. We need to constantly analyze what is going on by the Word and in prayer; falling before God begging for His guidance. Also, we need to be honest with ourselves and not try to justify even our most subtle of sins. Remember, God hates ALL sin; it is an affront to Him. Whether subtle or obvious, be on guard for temptation. Be watchful!
Monday, November 05, 2007
The picture you see also has a video with it; simply click on the tab about the picture that says "Video" and you will be able to see and hear Mrs. Baker's report.
Luke #41 – DISTRACTION: Under New Management
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from
So, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story. As I sat on the roadside with my very broken down car I was having the grandest time worshipping and having fellowship with God. No phone! No car! Not a single luxury! Like Jesus Christ my Savior, as undistracted as can be! (You can sing those last few lines to the Gilligan’s
Scripture says that Satan is beautiful (2 Corinthians ). Scripture also says that Satan is tricky (Ephesians ). That means he will try to slip in on us. We’ve got some nutty picture in our heads that Satan is ugly; a red devil so to speak. We never see the rascal coming because he is so beautiful and wily. But, we’d better be watching because he is looking to eat somebody up (1 Peter 5:8)!
Though Jesus had escaped the crowds, his family, and the carpenter business to get alone with His Father, Satan was there the entire time. Today’s verses tell us that Jesus experienced “being forty days tempted of the devil”. THEN He was tempted some more! My point here is simple; once all the distractions were removed, Satan moved in for a personal campaign.
Listen to me closely here…the average person has far too many distractions. We need to remove most of them. I am always amazed at how close people get to the Lord on retreats, mission trips, and camps. During those times we are insulated from our normal routines and free to meet with God. As soon as that period of time is over, we go right back to the things that were distracting us in the first place. I always remind my youth at church that camp is like a butcher; it teaches them how to trim the fat from their lives. They must then go home and do it themselves.
Know this though, when we do remove the distractions or when God removes them we need to be aware that Satan will move in and be the distraction himself. That’s why we need to wear the whole armor of God so that we can stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6).
Again, pay close attention…the devil loves for us to have distractions. One of his favorites is worry; worry about money, work, our children, and a host of other things. Another is busyness; sometimes all Satan wants to do is fill our lives with so many activities that we are drowned by busyness. Another is people; we often become so consumed by the search for love or consumed with a love interest that our vision is skewed. Another distraction is material things; we become caught up in the pursuit of things—money being chief. Often we are distracted by hobbies; golf, softball, fishing, watching TV…you name it. Now we need to trim the fat! After doing that the business of distraction will still be Satan’s chief aim. Once a Christian matures enough to removeJesus experienced that in the Wilderness. If you will remove the distractions in your life or let the Spirit lead you away from them you will experience it too. Get ready! It will require serious sacrifice to concentrate on God with a direct assault from Satan. Jesus ate nothing, not wanting even food to get in His way. Are you prepared for distractions to move in under new management?
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Luke #40 – Wilderness Blessings
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from
I was traveling from my church in
The night before my car broke down I read and reread Luke 4. I begged the Lord for a word to share in a devotion. The more I read the more the Scripture the more I understood it, but I could not find a devotional thought for the day. I read that chapter until and decided it was time to go to bed. I was worried about myself; as I lay awake I prayed Lord, show me why I cannot hear from you! Is there some sin? Is there some hidden pride? Help me! I awakened the next morning and the whole business was weighing heavy on my mind. I was worried about not sending a devotion out to those expecting to receive one. I was worried; What will they think? I carried the kids to the sitter’s house, went to a chiropractic appointment, drove back to the office, made some phone calls, read a chapter in a book, and headed off to the meeting.
As I waited there on the roadside God broke through to me. As I leaned on the hood of my car trying to get a signal on my cell phone, I realized what a beautiful day it was. I was not at the church office or my home office. There was no computer. There were no people. There were no telephones. Whatever schedule I had was shot; I couldn’t go anywhere. There were no children to feed, no grass to mow, no bills to pay, and no household chores to do. There was no television to watch, no books to read, and no errands to run. Everything that I HAD to do could not be done. I had not ONE red cent in my pocket; no water and no food. I stood out there looking at the clouds and I finally heard from God! The Holy Spirit had led me to the wilderness! Every distraction had been removed and I was truly free. That freedom came with a choice though; I could wallow in self pity or I could take advantage of a moment fully free from distraction and fellowship with God.
Our Lord was led into the Wilderness in His lifetime on earth. Of course we know that it was there that Satan tempted Him, but it was there also that Jesus did not succumb to temptation. Jesus escaped the throng at the Jordan and He was alone and free from distraction.
How many times does this happen in our life and we mistake it for a bad break? How many times do we think Why is this happening to me? when all God is trying to do is get alone with us? Often we seem to count these times as the devil being after us or we think that it is bad luck. I believe with all that is in me that the Holy Spirit led me out to that lake, on the side of that road that I may be alone with my Lord.
God often has what we might think to be strange methods. Where we might see “bad things” happening to us, it very well may be that God is stripping the distractions away. Where we might only see that our schedule is ruined it may be God resetting our schedule to get alone with us. Where we may only see difficulty, God sees, and leads us to, a time and place where we may be free to fully worship Him.
The spot where the car malfunctioned was about three miles from the school where my wife teaches. When I did get my phone to work, I called her. She came down to encourage me and all she got for her trouble was a roadside sermon (or two!). I was so happy in Christ Jesus that all I had was praise. The wilderness was good to me and I was overjoyed that He had led me there!
The next time you think that everything is going against you stop and pray; it may simply be God trying to break through and get some undivided attention from you. I found out something on that roadside…all my busyness was interfering with my hearing from God. We got alone in the wilderness and He blessed me sure enough. Luke 4:1 came rushing to my mind on that roadside and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Spirit had led me to that place for that time; thank you Lord!
“God Hates You.” A photograph in the USA Today showed a placard with these words. It was being carried by the picketing members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.
The story was birthed when the church was sued by the father of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who lost his life in the war in Iraq. Church members had waved posters with messages of judgment and hate at the funeral of this fallen Marine. Ironically, the messages of retribution have been protected by the very soldiers that this church despises. The blood that purchased freedom of expression is the ink that is used to scrawl messages of hatred.
But in the middle of the hate, the legal wrangling, and confused positions… God’s name is invoked. For the record, God does not, and did not hate Matthew Snyder. He’s not looking for reasons to destroy mankind… He’s had plenty. In fact, and most profoundly, God doesn’t even hate Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, even though the man profanes and misrepresents the definition of who God is.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:7, 8
Although the court defended the family of Matthew Snyder, the misrepresentation of God will remain “unjudged” for the time being. But rest assured those that blaspheme the name of God will answer for the claims… my challenge is not to be invited into their fray by committing the same sin against them.
Jesus, our master teacher, echoed the words that answered the assault of hatred. During His own execution He pleaded for those that misunderstood Him the most by saying: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I pray that The Church will show genuine love and compassion for the family of Matthew Snyder. I pray that their love will be compelling and comforting. I pray that out of the contrast will come hope and clarity… but I pray as well, that I will not let the putrid smell of hatred suck me into the same cesspool of judgment.Fred Phelps will answer for the words he’s written… and he’ll have company, I just don’t want to be anywhere close.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Another bad habit I've developed is the bad habit of replacing "doing" with "being." I'm working on being.
Another: I DO NOT KNOW WHEN THIS STARTED, but I was never known as a cat who wasted time talking about junk. I usually meet new people, or see well known friends, and get right to the main stuff of life. Somewhere along the line I've become a champion of idle chatter and mindless banter. No more. I'm getting to the point. I want to return to these conversations:
"Do you know Jesus?"
"Are you walking with Him? Do you obey Him? Are you serving Him?"
"Do you know Jesus?"
"Can I tell you about Him?"
Another thing... I've been trying to seek personal revival. I need one. Actually, I am pretty frustrated with a lot of things...the chief thing is me. In the process of seeking revival I have made a really strong effort in prayer to ask God to help me examine my heart, to test myself ( ), to judge myself "lest [I] be judged" and the entire host of things that I need to do to check myself before I wreck myself.
The funny thing about asking God these things is that He grants them.
I find myself vacillating between loathing myself and loving God. Honestly, I think I spend more time loathing myself. Some of that is healthy. I need an honest view of my sin. I need to not skirt the edge of puerile behavior and foolishly dismiss my often less-than-a-grown-man-who-ought-to-be-more-than-he-is-right-now way of kicking and screaming because I WANT MY WAY! I need to face me and grow up; particularly, to put away childish ways and walk worthy of the high calling I have received.
But, I just don't feel like it right now...
That's nothing anyone wants to hear, and, dang it, it's nothing I want to tell...
Still, if I don't confess my sins -- and, yes, read into that struggles and fears -- to my brethren, then I won't find a single soul to keep me accountable. One of my biggest problems is that I can get so much done on sheer will that I often would not take help if it was offered and surely would not go in search of it. THAT is my pride exalting itself against God. THAT is not taking Him at His word obediently. THAT is trusting myself over HIM. THAT may be my biggest problem. I sometimes feel like the ugly step-child of Adam and Eve who stood in the Garden with them shouting, "I CAN SKIN MY OWN CRITTER!!!"
Luke #39 – He Wasn’t Lying!
“Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David” (Luke 3:31 – King James Version).
“And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias…And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to
My daddy likes to play music. When I was growing up he and his friends would play at dances, fish fries, stews, family reunions and functions of that like; most of the time I went along with them. Most of the time I managed to stay out of trouble…or maybe the most accurate terminology would be that half of the time I managed to stay out of trouble. One particular night a boy and I got into a fight early in the evening; my dad hadn’t begun to play yet…that’s how early it was. My daddy caught me by the arm and said “I am going to whip your behind when we get home.” I was worried for a while, but by the time I got home it was late. We had been at that stew for nearly eight hours! I was sure daddy had forgotten about that whipping or would have forgiven me and decided not to whip me. Guess what…he wasn’t lying! My daddy did not forget how ugly I had acted and he did not forget to give me that whipping!
Yesterday I said that it was a big thing for Mary’s genealogy to be presented in Luke. Today I want to tell you why that is. Mary was descended from David’s son Nathan. Joseph was descended from David’s son Solomon. What’s the big deal with that? Of Solomon’s line there was a descendent named Jeconiah (Jechonias in KJV – same fellow, different spelling). Jeconiah was also known as Jehoiachin and in at least one instance was called Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24). Jeconiah was a bad king. God gives authority to any who have it and God will always deal with those who misuse His gifts. In Jeremiah 22:30 we find a curse pronounced on Jeconiah: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let the record show that this man Jehoiachin was childless, for none of his children will ever sit on the throne of David to rule in Judah. His life will amount to nothing’” (NLT). UUNNH! That’s hard! Read all of Jeremiah 22 and you will find that Jeconiah had fair warning from God but would not do as God said. As a result, God removed that line’s privilege to be king over
In 1 Samuel 22:9 God had promised to establish Solomon’s line as the kingly line, but in Jeremiah 22:30 God removes Jeconiah as king. Jeconiah’s sin did not disestablish God’s promise; there still was legal right from Solomon’s line, but sin had ruined the validity and holiness of the legal line. Still…legal is legal, so we get Joseph as Jesus legal father passing on the legal line to Jesus. AND we get Mary as Jesus physical mother passing on the uncursed line, still descendants of David, in truth to God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 (born of a woman’s seed), and in truth to Himself God would not allow Jeconiah’s descendent to rule as king. So, Jesus is legal before men, legal before God and righteous before both.
Some say the Bible is confusing, but the more I study that wonderful record of God’s dealings with man the more straightened out I get! When God disavowed Jeconiah, He wasn’t lying! God is always true to Himself and He never lies to us. He remembers His promises and by His very nature cannot forget them!
This little testimony of Jesus’ family tree serves as further truth that Jesus is the only One that could have fulfilled every prophecy and requirement of law involved in identifying the one true Messiah; King of Kings; Son of the Living God. God wasn’t lying when He said He would send a redeemer and no matter how much mankind sinned and goofed up in between God saying it and doing it God remained true to Himself and kept His promises.
What does this mean to us today? Well…we can be more confident in the holiness of God, more sure of His promises, and more confident that Jesus is exactly who He said He was and is. That confidence should breed in us more holy boldness than we have ever had before. We can share boldly about Jesus affirmed in the truth that He really is the way, the truth and the life. HE WASN’T LYING! God never forgot a single promise! He never forgot a single punishment either. That’s another thing we can be sure of although we’d probably like to forget.
Grab hold of the promises of God today…when He made them, HE WASN’T LYING!
Friday, October 12, 2007
Luke #38 – Family Tree
“And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (Luke 3:23-38 – King James Version).
I have a great aunt who declares she can show proof that we are descended from the same family that Queen Elizabeth II descends from. I don’t know about that…no one has invited me over to London for fish and chips and a spot o’ tea. I have gotten no “Dear Sir Timothy…” letters from Cousin Charlie; he didn’t even tell me that he and Lady Diana were having trouble with their marriage a few years ago…maybe I could’ve helped! Some way to treat family, ain’t it? I sure would like a crown; my title would be “Duke of Mayonnaise” or maybe “The Duke formerly known as Prince.” Which one do you like better? I get no respect from my family across the pond. It serves to make me more thankful than ever that through Christ I am in the family of God.
Believe it or not, this is a rich passage. It’s easy to get caught up in all the names and trying to make sense of Jesus’ family tree. If we were to lay it beside Jesus’ family tree found in Matthew we would find several noticeable differences, one huge difference of note that we will talk about tomorrow. First, in Matthew’s Gospel he was writing to a Jewish audience. With that in mind the Holy Spirit gives the Jewish Matthew Jesus’ genealogy in a way to satisfy their Jewish minds; Matthew moved forward from Abraham to Jesus. Luke, on the other hand, moved backward from Jesus to Adam. Matthew was connecting Jesus with His Jewish family and Luke was connecting Jesus to the whole of the human race. Also of note, Matthew record of Jesus’ family tree is the genealogy of Joseph and Luke’s is that of Mary. Pretty neat, huh?
It doesn’t stop there. As Matthew’s account connects Jesus to the line of David through His legal father, Luke’s account connects Jesus to the line of David through his mother, thus connecting Jesus both legally and physically. That’s important for the fact that Jesus came both to fulfill the law and prophecy. Matthew establishes Jesus connection to David through David’s son Solomon. Luke does that through David’s son Nathan. Joseph came from Solomon’s line and Mary from Nathan’s line. (MORE on that tomorrow…good stuff!)
Luke, led of the Spirit, went through the pains of connecting Jesus to Adam that he might correctly establish Jesus as the true Son of God as a man on earth. The first Adam lost his title because of his sin. Jesus came to reclaim that title by being sinless and thusly being accepted by the Father. Jesus took on the same difficulties of Adam, yet He did so with success. By Jesus’ success at remaining sinless and subsequent offering of Himself for our sins, He bought back (redeemed) the privilege of mankind to be called the children of God again. Of course, we know that only happens as we accept this gift that Jesus has purchased for us.
Many folk may think that Jesus has no connection with them. By Jesus’ family tree alone, we can determine that He is connected to all men. By His death on the cross and His rising from the dead we can join with Him in the everlasting family tree and be connected as heirs to the grace of God forever.
I do not think that the royal family of Great Britain will go through any pains to connect themselves to Tim Bowes. I do not think they will even try! God, on the other hand, went through great pains to reestablish contact with me. He reached out across the centuries and sent me a personal love letter / invitation calling me to a great family reunion. That letter was signed in blood by Christ Jesus who bids me come and enjoy the bonds of family again.
That same invitation is open to all who would come. I am so thankful to be in the family tree of Jesus. He purchased that right and privilege for me and for you. This earthly family may forget me; they may disown me; they may not even recognize my existence. God has done none of those things. No, indeed not; in fact, He remembered me even when I wouldn’t think of Him. Thank you God for bringing me back to your family!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Luke #37 – Beginnings
“Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, ‘Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21-22 – King James Version).
I don’t show my emotions a lot of the time. It’s not that I don’t feel like crying, the tears just don’t come out. Baptisms get the tears flowing every time. I cry for three reasons, two of which are very different. Whenever I see someone being baptized or have administered baptisms I always think back to the joyous day of my own baptism. That was a monumental day for me; one I’ll NEVER forget. I know what a great new PUBLIC beginning that was for me and when I watch others being baptized I wonder about their new public beginning. I watch in silent awe as I try to imagine how God has become real to that person and how different their present and future has become having met Jesus. I always wonder if that person is just getting wet. Baptism without salvation is just getting dunked. Nothing more; period. If that is the case I get very, very sad when I think about that. I think What if this person is getting baptized and does not know Jesus? Will they think THIS is salvation? One second I am filled with joy at the possibility of someone letting the world know about their NEW LIFE in Christ and the next second I am mourning at the possibility that a person just got dunked for nothing.
Some may wonder why Jesus got baptized; He wasn’t a sinner was He? No, indeed not! There are several good reasons why Jesus was baptized. He was identifying with our humanity and our sin (concerning sin, the keyword being IDENTIFYING). Jesus’ baptism gave us an example to follow. Also, Jesus’ baptism served as the beginning of His public ministry. Whatever the reason (and there are probably more), God was “pleased” with what Jesus was doing.
I think it is key to note that Jesus was there on the Jordan with the sinners when He began His public ministry. Those were the people He chose to associate Himself with. It would have made more sense to the human mind if Jesus had gone to the temple and had a big ceremony. That is still who Jesus wants to identify with, the sinner who knows change is needed. That’s who Jesus wants to be baptized…those who have turned to Him from sin and wants the world to know.
Baptism is a post salvation experience, or at least it’s supposed to be. When we get baptized it is to tell the world four things: (1) we’re turning from sin, (2) we’re starting a new life in Christ that we want known publicly, (3) we are identifying in obedience with Christ, and (4) our baptism serves as a public proclamation and profession of our salvation. It is also the asking of three things from the witnesses: (1) we are asking for Christian love from the body of Christ, (2) we are asking for prayer, and (3) we are asking for accountability in our walk with the Lord. Whether you were able to articulate your baptism in those terms, did it mean that for you?
There is a bunch of folks in churches across America that have been dunked but have no new beginning to go with the water. Granted, Jesus did not sin, but His baptism was nonetheless a new beginning. There are also a lot of people in churches today that were baptized as children, but did not really meet Christ until later on. If that is you friend, let me encourage you to receive a believer’s baptism soon. Sure, there may be some in attendance that remember your first baptism, but what a powerful testimony to tell them that the first one was just water but the new one is a result of having met Christ!
God is the God of new beginnings. Would you have a new beginning today? If you do not know Christ, today can be the day! Then follow Him into baptism and let the world know that you have decided to follow Jesus. Christian…look back at your baptism experience. What was it about? Let’s be sure that it was something in which God would say He was “well pleased.” Did you think that your baptism and joining the church saved you? (By the way…baptism is NOT salvation). Did you realize it was a proclamation and profession of new life in Jesus? That’s what it should be; a sign of a new beginning!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Luke #36 – Unpopular
“But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison” (Luke 3:19-20 – King James Version)
It was a sickening scene to me; President Bill Clinton acted immorally and our nation basically shrugged our collective shoulders and did nothing. Hearings were held and sex was redefined and that was about the end of the whole thing. From that day until this one every time I hear someone say that America is a Christian nation I openly disagree. At best America is a nation with a lot of churches and some Christians. Every person that claimed any kind of morality at all should have been outraged and shouted that man right out of office. As usual the Christian community, with the exception of a few brave voices, did not rise up and take a stand. Many said it was Clinton’s personal business and had no bearing on his leadership. PHOOEY! I could see forgiving a man who openly admits his mistakes, is broken because of them, learns from them, and repents from such behavior. Not only did Bill Clinton not seem to feel bad about this wrong, but he tried to justify, ignore, and deny it. As an American, it was a sad situation.
John the Baptist lived in a time just like that. Herod was ruler of Galilee and fully cooperative with the occupation forces of Rome. He had basically stolen his brother’s wife and married her. To top it off, Herodias was Herod’s niece. That is both incest and adultery. John called it what it was and it got him in big trouble (Mark 6:17-28). He was imprisoned and later executed (Luke 9).
John’s boldness in speaking the truth made him unpopular to say the least. We should be careful to note that John called sin what it was not because he was being a jerk; rather, it was the opposite. Let’s not forget that John’s mission was to prepare people for the coming Messiah. He was not a man of hateful ways. When he discovered that his disciples were leaving him to follow Jesus, John said, “The bride will go where the Bridegroom is. A Bridegroom's friend rejoices with Him. I am the Bridegroom's friend, and I am filled with joy at His success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:29-30 – NLT). What tenderness! What humility! He was not trying to win people to John but to Jesus.
Why do I bring this up? It is of the utmost importance that we speak the truth about sin even it makes us unpopular. However, we cannot do it from a spirit of arrogance or pride. We must speak the truth in humility, brokenness, and love; being ever mindful of the grim future for those who will not repent and turn to the Lord.
Now, we must also be mindful that being witnesses of Christ will make us very unpopular. Are we willing to risk that? We may be thought strange; we will be ostracized; it will not be easy. I will tell you this much…I am so thankful that there were people who called my sin what it was. I am so thankful that I realized my guilt and met my Savior. I used to get mad at people like Vernon Wilkerson who always talked about God. Now I think Vernon is a saint! Personally, I will run the risk of making folks mad at me. I will be unpopular. I know that if I am bold for Christ this world may levy punishment on me, but if I make one hundred people mad and one of them realizes their sin and turns to God it will ALL be worth it!
Popularity is not my goal; pleasing God is my goal. Turning people on the love of God is my goal. I refuse to simply walk through this life letting people commit spiritual suicide while doing nothing. If that causes me to be unpopular, then let it be so. I want the approval of God, not that of men. I will call sin what it is. I will do my best to do that in love and humility. Will you join me on this holy mission? Will you risk being unpopular? Will you decrease so that Christ may increase?
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade
Total Abortions since 1973
And I wonder...
How many babies has the "Morning After" pill taken from us that we will never know about?
A handful of people die in a mine collapse. The nation mourns nightly over the network news. We ought to mourn with these families. We hurt with them. We should.
A bridge collapses in Minnesota and many die. We look upon the scene with horror. We should.
We are appalled when 230,000 die from a Tsunami. We should be.
The Holocaust saw over 7,000,000 die. We whisper when we talk about that. We should.
No news-cameras record the scenes that represent those babies' lives that are represented by that gaudy number above. We should be disgusted. We should have righteous anger that drives us to our knees and wakes our voices to speak for these who have no voice. We should do something.
We might think it's a problem in California or "up north" as someone recently said to me. Though I cannot guarantee this number the NC Right to Life website says that 2.2 - 2.3% of the total abortions have happened in NORTH CAROLINA. That's 1,068,980. Yes; you read correctly: ONE MILLION, SIXTY-EIGHT THOUSAND, NINE HUNDRED EIGHTY unborn children in OUR STATE that had no voice to beg for their lives.
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus the Son,
Youth For Christ-Roxboro
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Thursday, September 13, 2007
Luke #35 – Washed Clean and Fired Up
“And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of Whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.’ And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people” (Luke -18 – King James Version).
Have you ever noticed how it seems that spring cleaning requires making things messier before getting things really clean? Recently I cleaned out our cabinets and found tops to dishes that I had not seen in years. I filled up two trash bags with junk that some how we had at one time thought useful, but since had found no use for. I found some things in our cabinets that I had no clue why we ever thought we needed OR wanted. Most heartbreaking was finding products that we bought at one time but never used; obviously we never needed that junk either. At the pinnacle of the purge our entire kitchen floor, the stove, the table, and the counter tops were filled with plates, glasses, crockery, pots, bowls, plastic storage containers, fryers, pans, and every other thing you can think of. I looked at the whole mess and felt like giving up.
When it comes to repentance we often experience something akin to my cleaning adventure. When it comes down to actually repenting we find things in our lives that we had not dealt with in years. We find things that we wonder why we were holding on to. We find things that at one time we could not do without, but discover that that thing was never needed in the first place. We find things that we never wanted and wonder why we even have them. We find our lives in a horrible mess and we might feel like just giving up. We may even think that there is no help for the mess and that we might as well quit and just live with the junk we are holding on to.
John’s preaching on repentance caused the people to begin to think of the coming Messiah. Many wondered whether John was himself that Messiah. John knew his place in the scheme of things. He said, “I am not even worthy of being the slave of the coming Messiah.” (There is a lesson in there somewhere! We need to recognize our place and Christ’s place in the Kingdom. Whose will should come first?) John reminds us today that he was pointing to a much greater and soon coming Christ.
John’s preaching of repentance was like cleaning out the cabinets. John confronted people with the mess all of our lives are in. John baptized with water…his message was “Clean up! Get ready!” The word for today concerning that issue is that we need to realize that true repentance is a messy business that requires commitment and courage. It requires dealing with mess that has been around a long time, much of which we did not even realize we had (pride issues, sinful habits and thoughts, etc.). It requires the willingness to scrap a lot of things we hold on to. Washing, however, is a good thing. Get rid of the mess! It may be painstaking but I am sure it is needful. When it came to my cabinets it was an aggravating affair, but when I look at those well organized cabinets today I rarely think of the trouble they brought in getting them that way.
John then spoke of the Messiah’s baptism which would be the fire of the Holy Spirit. This is the indwelling of God Almighty into the believer enabling them not only to keep what repentance cleaned up but to produce fruit as well.
To delineate from the life that only cleaned the outside, John likened them to chaff. That’s the outside husk of a kernel of wheat; the part that is thrown away. Jesus considers outside change as the disposable part. John warned of that because it is a certain danger to the human way of doing things. Real repentance is being changed. It does not mean LOOKING changed. Repentance will not stick unless we fill with Christ all of the areas we took sin away from. So, we need to be washed clean of our sins by the baptism of repentance and have the Holy Spirit cauterize those areas with His fiery indwelling presence.
Too many times today we are more worried about being caught in sin than we are about ridding ourselves of sin. We don’t worry about the reality of our sin only the possibility that someone will find out. The warning we need to hear in this matter is that Jesus knows all and stands ready with His winnowing fork to separate the wheat and the waste. John knew the Messiah was coming soon…I believe He is coming soon too…COMING BACK that is.
Listen now…we may only see the mess that our lives are and feel like giving up. Have courage! Whatever we give up, Christ will replace with Himself. We all need to be washed clean and fired up…it is a tough business and may even be painful, but it WILL be well worth it!
Monday, September 10, 2007
Luke #34 – Practical Preaching
“And the people asked him, saying, ‘What shall we do then?’ He answereth and saith unto them, ‘He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.’ Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, ‘Master, what shall we do?’ And he said unto them, ‘Exact no more than that which is appointed you.’ And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ And he said unto them, ‘Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages’” (Luke 3:10-14 – King James Version).
I was talking with a pastor friend on the phone the other day when I asked him what he had preached on that past Sunday. He said “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” He said “I heard a sermon somewhere and I can remember nothing else besides the three points. They were: They wouldn’t bend, they wouldn’t bow, and they wouldn’t break.” I said, “Yeah, I know that sermon! You gave me the tape of that sermon from the pastor’s conference.” My friend said, “I couldn’t forget those points, so I preached on them.” I couldn’t forget them either. I don’t even remember the pastor that preached the sermon and neither did my pastor friend. The point was that it made its point. We both walked away from the listening to the sermon with something practical to put in our pocket. We both walked away knowing that we could not have a half-hearted faith. It was practical.
That’s the way brother John preached. Let’s look at three very practical examples of John’s preaching that we would do well to learn. The crowd asked “What should we do to show our faith?” John simply says for them to give of what they have. If someone takes something from us, supplement their theft by giving them more. That’s practical AND revolutionary. Rather than giving of what we have in these days and times, we concentrate on getting more for ourselves. Giving what we have proves our faith because we firmly believe that God will not leave us in need.
The tax collectors asked John what they should do. John said, “Whatever you do for a living, do it well and be fair about it.” For example, if you are a policeman reading this, don’t speed just because you can and don’t give tickets because of your personal preferences and prejudices. If you are a mill worker, don’t goof off and put in an honest days work. Goofing off on the job is no better than taking extra taxes as the tax collectors did…both are stealing.
The soldiers then asked what they should do. John said, “Don’t cheat others and be content with your pay.” A Christian that is never satisfied with their wage is a Christian that is not seeking satisfaction in the right place! A Christian that finds that they need to go around the system to make more money (not paying taxes for example) is a Christian that isn’t trusting God to take care of them.
Though John had tough messages to preach, they were practical. His messages were useful. In the few short sentences above John gave us three practical things we can use in our day to day lives. Now we must ask ourselves these three questions and let God analyze our hearts. Do we share what we have? Do we work honestly and deal fairly with others? Are we content with what we have or don’t have?
All three things are basically trust issues and will show us our true level of trust in God. If we really trust Him, we will live like it. We will trust that He will take care of whatever we lose in living for Him. Practical? Yes! Easy to hear and do? No! But, isn’t that the way of practical preaching and practical living? We are challenged to live real and trusting lives before the Lord. Are we doing it?
Iorg: Focus on 'Jesus Christ, crucified'
Posted on Sep 10, 2007 | by Amanda Phifer MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)--Jeff Iorg, at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary's president's convocation, launched a year-long series on becoming "Kingdom-focused leaders."
Iorg urged returning and new students, faculty and staff at the seminary's Mill Valley, Calif., campus to remain focused on "Jesus Christ, crucified," no matter what other matters come along and demand attention.
"The Christian community today is distracted and often fragmented by secondary and tertiary issues," Iorg said. "We need to deal with these issues but not allow them to become our primary message. Never lose sight of the most important message of all -– Jesus Christ, crucified."
Citing the factionalism as well as gender and sexuality and charismatic issues buffeting the New Testament church at Corinth, Iorg noted that believers today face many of the same issues.
Such distractions must be addressed, Iorg said; the Apostle Paul, after all, wrote letters to the Corinthian church to address such issues. But Iorg reminded that "our focus must not be removed from our core message: Jesus Christ, crucified."
Focusing on "Jesus Christ, crucified," Iorg said, has three results: It confounds contemporary wisdom, demonstrates the power of God, and changes lives.
"You live in a world looking for all kinds of ways to incorporate the supernatural with the reasonable," Iorg said. "And you may use any number of methods to engage the culture with Christ -– dialogue, identification, service, study and occasionally even debate -– but don't confuse your method with your message.
"The message of Jesus Christ crucified is as radical, confrontational and controversial as it ever was in the first century," Iorg said. "And like the first century, people are likely to call you either a stumbling block or a fool. But you stay focused on our message -– Jesus Christ, crucified."
Then he added, "I'll tell you why you're here -– because somewhere someone witnessed to you Jesus Christ crucified, and He changed your life. There's no explaining you apart from that, is there?"
As part of the Aug. 23 convocation, students, faculty and staff each made covenant commitments to live out the mission and core values of Golden Gate Seminary.
Golden Gate is entering its 63rd academic year, with more than 1,700 students enrolled, including candidates in the seminary's new doctor of philosophy program in biblical studies. GGBTS encompasses five campuses across the West and dozens of Contextualized Leadership Development centers across the country.
Amanda Phifer is a writer at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Luke #33 – Fear and Kinfolk
“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, ‘O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, “We have Abraham to our father:” for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire’” (Luke 3:7-9 – King James Version).
I talk to people all the time. That’s my job. That’s what I do. When it comes to excuses I have heard them all. To be fair, I have made a bunch in my time too. I was not raised in church. I wish I had been, but SOMETIMES I am glad I was not. I say that only to make this illustration; you’ll see what I mean.
I have asked many people when they became Christians and get a lot of weird responses. Some common responses are: “I have went to church all my life”; “I was baptized when I was nine (or whatever age)”; I joined the church twenty-five years ago (again, those years vary)”; “My family helped found this church.” Still, all of those responses are noble but leave the question unanswered.
I also ask people what Christ has done in their lives. I get a lot of weird responses to that too. Some are: “I quit drinking”; “I joined the church”; “I went on a mission trip”; “I got baptized.” Again, all good things but usually all they indicate is things they have done, not transformation that Christ has effected.
We would do well to have some of John the Baptist’s preaching in the South today. We are a very religious bunch down here, but I am prayerfully broken at our lack of belief, our transformation, and our weak faith. Now, I don’t think many folks could step into the pulpit and start preaching by saying “O you brood of vipers!” That might not go to well, ya think? John was addressing a crowd who came solely in fear. Hearing John’s prophetic preaching caused fear to come upon them and they were getting hell insurance. John didn’t want them to get baptized thinking that was the cure. John wanted to call attention to the fact that truly meeting God caused an internal change.
Then John wanted to debunk another misconception. Many Jews thought that being related to Abraham was good enough to receive the resurrection. John said “God can raise up more descendants of Abraham by turning rocks into people.” After all man was formed from the ground; if all God wanted was more people, He could turn every rock into a person. It was not relation to Abraham that led people to know God, but faith like the faith Abraham had.
God values reformation more than religion. The study notes in my Life Application Study Bible ask this probing question: “Is your faith motivated by a desire for a new, changed life, or is it only like a vaccination or insurance policy against possible disaster?” We cannot come to God by reciting a few sentences after someone. Wait…I am not saying we cannot be led or lead another in a prayer to accept Christ. What I am saying is that prayer should produce inner change that reforms our outer actions. Do you dig? We cannot simply hear a scary sermon about hell, pray a little prayer, and walk away the same person living the same life and think we are saved. If all that prayer or that baptism or joining the church means to us is that we have a get out of hell free card, then we haven’t met God at all. That’s a hard saying, but it is the heart of John’s message to us today.
Religion very well may be inherited, but faith is not. God has no grandchildren. Everyone has to make a personal decision to accept Christ. Just because your mama’s uncle was a missionary to New Guinea and your grandma taught Sunday School does not make you a Christian. What makes a Christian is the person who comes to Christ Jesus broken over their sins and begging Him for forgiveness and release from sin’s grasp.
Jesus’ hardest words were to religious leaders who had not experienced deep inner change. Following Jesus means acting on what He said, not just saying the right words. I don’t say this to be a jerk; I don’t want anyone to miss out on experiencing God. I can tell you this much, if your experience of God has been limited to 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings, then you have missed the blessings of a kind and gracious Father who is stern yet tender (and so much more!).
God desires that we have “fruits worthy of repentance,” meaning that our lives prove that we have really turned from our sins. For those that have not experienced that, John warns that every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
Listen my dear friends, repentance is not about joining the church or quitting smoking or drinking. It is about turning from God and experiencing a deep inner change. If we do that, we will WANT to go to church; we will WANT to live moral lives; we will WANT to be baptized. All of those things will come from the natural flow of knowing God.
So, did you “join the church” or meet Christ? Did you get baptized or receive salvation? Did you repent or simply clean up? Did you pray a little prayer out of fear or fall before the Lord broken? Do you depend on the righteousness of someone you know or do you have a PERSONAL relationship with Christ Jesus? God can raise up church members from rocks. He desires people to know and worship Him in truth and spirit. Don’t miss the boat on this one gang. Check yourself, does your experience with God just mean a “get out of hell free card”? HE IS SO MUCH MORE!