Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flipping the Script on my Pride...

One of the toughest things to desire is also one of the best things to have: HUMILITY. God, help me to want it, for I surely know You desire to grant it.

“He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:9 ESV)
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15 ESV)
“All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 ESV)
 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6 ESV)
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:3-11 ESV)
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6 ESV)
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 ESV)
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30 ESV)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’’” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10 ESV)
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (Ephesians 4:2 ESV)
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV)
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2 ESV)

“When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: ‘They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.’” (2 Chronicles 12:7 ESV)

Being where I am...

Being where I am...
I don't hang out much in my heart and mind with who I used to be. I was called out of that, and delivered from it. Sure, it has some history lessons for me, but I'm a new creation, born again from the womb of heaven. Yes, I have regrets, but even if I lived on the coastline of the Sea of Regret, I would never swim or sail; I wouldn't even twinkle my toes in Regrets pulsing tides. I'm up on The Rock now; I've found solid ground, and here I stand.
I don't rest too much in who I am these days. I'm pressing on. Sure, the trail is rocky, dusty, winding, and, above all, narrow, but it IS the upward way. It's the Transformation Trail, and with Jesus, I walk. I do celebrate that I am where I am, especially when I juxtapose what the Spirit has done in my life against what my flesh was doing in my life, but I don't hang out here. More than my celebration of me, the Trail keeps leading me up to Him who is at work in me! The Transformation Trail winds along in conjunction with the Worship Walk. I stay hungry for Bread, thirsty for Living Water and I yearn for good, solid food as I journey.
I am excited about who I'll be. Yes! The believer that does not long for completion hasn't taken a long look at the brokenness of the world -- THEIR brokenness -- and hasn't taken a look at what will come. And, no, I don't mean only heaven the place, but heaven the experience; the height of which is being in the very presence of God. WOW! I'm excited about that! But, I don't hang out on Heaven's Hallway a lot these days. Why? "Why?" is a good question. Simple; if I'm here, if my body has it's by God's good pleasure, and I want to be in this moment with Him. I want to be present with Him now, and useful now. I want to be a Knight in the Order of Onesimus, both noble and useful.
So, Lord, teach my heart to hang out in Presence Place, even as I long for Heaven's Hallway. Teach my heart to both live in Presence Place and trek up Transformation Trail and Worship Walk. Teach me to be in the now with You...teach me to abide, that I may experience You, and be fruitful for Your glory. Keep me from the ebb and flow of Regret's crashing waves; put me on the marble floor of Presence Place, and teach me to dance.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Familial Reflections

Let me say this, I LOVE all my family...and both my families...

There is a family for which experience, law and genetics determines a common past. There is also a family for which the blood of Jesus and unifying work of the Holy Spirit determines a common future. It's a huge blessing to know and walk with people who are in both.

I identify with my genetic family; and, I love them. More so, I identify with my spiritual family. Jesus said, "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:50 ESV)

When it comes to my spiritual family, we're on mission together. It's not about where genealogy connects us, but where the Spirit is sending us. Like I said, I love it when those two families are one and the same. I have NOTHING but love for both families. Get that, and don't miss it: I have nothing but love for BOTH families.

In Matthew 12, Jesus lays down a confrontational view of family. Read vss. 46-50; Jesus's mom and brothers are wanting to talk to him, but Jesus makes the radical statement above: "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (v. 50)

He basically says there is family, but there is also FAMILY. In other words, there is the family that comes through genetics, and there is spiritual family. Jesus asserts that His spiritual family has his attention first.

Wow...that's putting it right in our face!

Is Jesus telling us to put our physical family in the backseat? Well... wrestle with that. Read Matthew 15:3-9; God would have us love our family and honor our mothers and fathers. What He IS saying is that believers must count their family tie to Him as more important than family ties to anyone else. Luke 14:26 reveals the entirety of the tension we believers are to live in. Honor our mom and dad, yes. Love our family, yes. Take care of our families, yes. But, Jesus first. Jesus first. JESUS FIRST!

That creates tension! Do you hear me? Tension! Tension pulls both ways!
I love both my families, but I must hold Jesus as the highest thing in my heart. I must DEEPLY value the people of God.

As I studied the Scriptures tonight, one thing I need to be reminded of tonight is to remember that God picks my spiritual family, not me. HE is adding to the family, not me. He brings them in, not me. He saves them, not me. He loves them more than me. Then, God expects ME to love who He saves! God expects those whom He saves to do as He commands. AND, THAT is how I'll know who my spiritual family is!

Blood tests work both ways, right? We get a blood sample, and take it to a doctor; it gets analyzed and we find out if genetics truly do connect us. The Church gets a blood sample, too. Whoever is under the blood does the Father's will!

There are some words of challenge, instruction or exhortation for someone here...
#1 Someone needed to be reminded to treasure Christ above everyone and everything.
#2 Someone needed to be reminded to treasure those Jesus also cherishes, the Church (and the church). Those who do the will of God are your future and forever family! Think on that!
#3 Someone needed to be reminded to honor their mom and dad and walk in love with their family.
#4 Someone needed to be reminded to make the mission of the King the prime goal of their lives.
#5 Someone, like me, needed to be reminded to love those God adds to the family, not just the ones we'd add if it were up to us.
#6 Someone needed to be reminded what Jesus says about being in His spiritual family. Yes, His shed blood is the only way to come into His family, and the only proper response is to let Him do with our life as He pleases.

Honestly, I needed to be reminded of all of it. Like all things in the Scriptures, it rattles me, but like He always does, Jesus delights me. Which, again, reminds me to put Him first.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Courier-Times article for September 27, 2014 - "Understand what is Really Happening"

Understand what is Really Happening

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (2 Corinthians 4:4 and Romans 1:21 ESV)

A couple of comedic singers called “The Flight of the Conchords” had a song called I’m Not Crying in which a guy is explaining the many reasons one might think he is crying while he repeatedly claims he is not. Here are a few of the lines:

I'm not crying, not crying, not crying
I'm not crying, it's just been raining on my face

I'm not crying, no, I'm not crying
And if I am crying, it's not because of you
It's because I'm thinking about a friend of mine
You don't know who is dying, that's right, dying
These aren't tears of sadness because you're leaving me
I've just been cutting onions, I'm making a lasagna for one

Oh, I'm not crying, no
There's just a little bit of dust in my eye
That's from the path that you made when you said your goodbye
I'm not weeping 'cause you won't be here to hold my hand
For your information, there's an inflammation in my tear gland

I'm not upset because you left me this way
My eyes are just a little sweaty today

You get the picture, right? He’s crying. No matter how many excuses this poor, lowly, lonely, brokenhearted fellow makes, nor how many protests he proffers, he’s crying. He can attempt to deny with his words, but the tears are flowing. Not only is he crying, but he is indeed crying over the one thing he asserts he is not crying over; his laments his lost lady!

This silly song helps me a make a point today. There is a spiritual war going on, and no matter how much we ignore it, no matter how much we disdain it, no matter how much we pretend it’s not true, it is. Furthermore, no matter how old fashioned we think Satan or demons are, no matter how outdated or fantastical or strange or unscientific we think they are, these evil ones are real.

Satan’s master design and main weapon is deception. As 2 Corinthians 4:4 reveals, Satan desires to blind our minds. As Romans 1:21 reveals, Satan desires to darken our hearts. His plan in these things is to cause us not to recognize God that we might not know Him; that’s his desire in working on our minds. Likewise, Satan works on our hearts, that we might not have affection for God or to place other things in front of Him in our affections. Putting it plainly, Satan does not want us to know God or care for Him!

Satan’s main target is always leadership. Whoever is the front of whatever is who the enemy is going for first! Friend, you take a good honest look around this country and see how many households have not fathers in them! God ordained husbands/dads to lead their homes, and Satan is winning that battle decidedly! Husbands are to loving their wives as Christ loved the church and raising their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Instead, we are struck dumb in the pursuit of success, leisure and hobbies and have abdicated our God-given call to lead our families. Many men are made spiritually impotent because they simply do not recognize God as the Lord of their lives; Satan is winning the American man and destroying the American home.

Satan’s goals are easy to recognize, too. He is working to dishonor God’s name, disrupt God’s work and disturb God’s people. Don’t miss that! Understand it!
No matter how much we claim all our problems are political, or claim they don’t exist, we’d better come to understand what is really happening in this world. Satan is having a field day. There is an all-out spiritual war.

We’d better get engaged in the battle, be wise about our ways and seek the face of God. We cannot recognize the enemy’s work without the Father’s help. We cannot stand against the enemy’s ways without the Father’s strength. We cannot survive the enemy’s war if we are not hidden in the Savior’s care.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Commit to Him your every way. Believe on His every word. He will guide you upon that narrow way!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Are your eyes opened to worship Jesus?

"Then how were your eyes opened?" 

John 9 relates a fascinating story to us. A man is blind; he meets Jesus, Jesus tells him to do some crazy stuff and those odd things bring healing. 

Later, those trying to find some reason to condemn Jesus, that man is questioned about what happened to give him sight. His answer begins simply, "The man called Jesus..." 

In the beginning, that's all the blind man sees or understands; he understands Jesus as a man, and a man only. He says, "The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' So I went and washed and received my sight." (John 9:11 ESV)

He understood a man told him to follow a process. That's it. When the accusing religious leaders asked the formerly-blind man who he thought Jesus was, the man responded, "He is a prophet." (see 9:17)

But, later... 

Later on, the man is called to be questioned again by those who want to condemn Jesus (see 9:24). You can clearly see the formerly-blind man has developing faith: "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." (John 9:25b ESV) One thing the formerly-blind man is sure of is that he was FORMERLY blind! 

The man Jesus told him to do something...
The man Jesus "...is a prophet" in the formerly blind man's sight...
The formerly-blind man encountered the man Jesus and now he can see...

Now, watch this... 

As the questioning continued, the man answered, "Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to Him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind." (John 9:30-32 ESV)

The formerly-blind man was now willing to recognize the man Jesus, the prophet Jesus and the vessel of God's power Jesus. 

Now, it gets really interesting... 

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him He said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, 'And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?' Jesus said to him, 'You have seen Him, and it is He who is speaking to you.' He said, 'Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped Him." (John 9:35-38 ESV)

God is always working to move us from seeing the works of the man Jesus to recognizing Jesus as God, and from being grateful for what Jesus has done to worshipping who Jesus is. 

Like physical blindness, there is spiritual blindness. We are captured by the enemy, in bondage and in darkness. The Son of Man has come into the world and the world knows Him not. The Spirit of God is revealing the Lord Jesus to the world, and many only know the man Jesus. Many only see Him as prophet. I'd urge you to understand Him as God, as Lord, as Savior and as King. 

God would move us from recognition of the man Jesus to worship of the Lord Jesus, the Christ. 

Let me ask you, "Are your eyes opened? Who then opened your eyes?" 

As for me, the Spirit of God opened my eyes to know the Son of God who is giving me access to God the Father. Now, I worship Father, Son and Holy Ghost! HE is the ONE I love the most!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Courier-Times article for Saturday, September 19, 2014

The Right and Righteous Fight

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)

We live in a world where fighting and war are common. We glorify soldiers and boxers and MMA fighters. We laud soldiers as heroes and pay professional fighters millions. We love fighting so much we make fighting games that net millions upon millions in profits! We love fighting so much that we even cheer on fake fighters, like (so-called) professional wrestlers.

We seem to have a deep desire to fight.

Your desire to fight might be right, but is it righteous? It might be warranted, but is it worshipful?
If you desire a war, don't get a badge, join the military, and pray it never comes.
If you desire a war, don't join a gang and sell dope, join the military, and pray it never comes.
If you desire a fight, don’t put your pride and blood into the streets, join the military, and pray a fight never comes.  

If you really desire a war, one is upon you. If you really desire a fight, one is upon you. Do you know there is a spiritual war waging in and around you? Most people only consider the physical wars and fights that are common to the eyes.

There are wars, and people are killing and being killed; people's lives are ending and they are going forth to meet their Maker. They will be judged; some will pass on through the judgment because they have trusted by faith the finished work of the Christ; others have trusted their flesh or false gods, and they will be sent into outer darkness, away from God, suffering for eternity.

There are wars. Some are being waged on open battlefields, and others are being waged in guerilla and terrorists conflicts, in streets and alleyways and cities and towns, in villages and across farmlands.

There are wars. Some are being fought in city streets between citizens and citizens, citizens and law enforcement. Some are being fought with policies and politics. Some are being fought in families and homes, in schools and workplaces.

There are wars. Across the globe, people are striving and suffering, pursuing selfish interests, killing and being killed, maiming and being maimed, intimidating, wounding, frightening, thieving ... and more.

But, none of us seem to understand THE WAR. The war that is behind the wars, and the one every person is even in this very moment embroiled is spiritual in its root and nature.

The first war is the war within (see Matthew 26:41, Romans 7:14-20, Galatians 5:16-17). All of us are warring within, our flesh raging against our spirit, even wounding our spirit and ruling it. For those who've been quickened into life via the Spirit of God, the old nature is striving against the living spirit within, seeking to maim, oppress, depress, destroy, wound and devour. Yes, there IS a war within.

Still, there's a great conflict that even drives the wars within. Though not the only place in Scripture, Ephesians 6:10-20 is succinct in its description of the fight that is driving every sinful fight and war in the world.

We think our conflicts are really about flesh and blood, but they’re not! We rage and fight, but there’s a darker, spiritual force behind our conflict with other people.

In this broken world, we rage against people, we desire and we war against one another, when, really, truly our war is against demonic forces, “cosmic powers” and “spiritual forces.”

This broken world, filled with warring spiritual forces, should give us a desire to fight, but wisdom would teach us to not fight each other! That’s where we’ve got it all wrong! We must begin to question our motives and our targets. Our desire to fight might be right, but is it righteous? Our desire to war may be coming from the reality we are living in, but are we fighting the right things for the right reasons? 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Christian basher, repent...

Believer...yes, YOU who claim to know Jesus... get this...get it good...practice it...especially all of US preacher boys and smart Christian folk with big degrees and smarty pants plans...US Sunday School teachers and Bible study teachers...US! Get what I'm about to drop in front of US. Understand it. Marvel in it. Rest in it. Practice it.

Are you ready?

Make sure you are ready?

This is going to be tough! Get ready.

"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;" (Romans 14:10 ESV)
"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

Of course, I could easily add about 10 more passages, but you get the idea, right?

IF you must talk about something, talk about GOOD DOCTRINE and teach believers how to recognize BAD DOCTRINE. But, be careful with naming, blaming, disclaiming and defaming people.

Let me repeat that: Be careful with naming, blaming, disclaiming and defaming people!


Let me say it one more time: Be careful with naming, blaming, disclaiming and defaming people!

I'm not telling US LEADERS to never name a heretic who a blatant heretic or to never name a person who is promoting or living in blatant, harmful, society-killing, soul-killing wickedness. Hear me; I'm saying be careful. If David would not strike King Saul WHEN SAUL WAS TRYING TO KILL HIM, then that right there alone ought to be a caution against our quick-to-kill-with-words other people. (ref. 1 Samuel 24) David had sense enough to know that God would not be pleased with him against Saul EVEN THOUGH Saul was trying to find and kill David! Later, David said to Saul, "May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you." (1 Samuel 24:12 ESV)

NOBODY needs our sarcasm. NOBODY needs our sly comments that mask hate in smooth intellectualism. NOBODY needs anyone else beating them to death with more words piled on top of more words.

Grandma used to say, "If you've got nothing good to say, then just hush." Grandma was wise. Maybe my version, with all due respect to Grandma, would be, "If you've got nothing wise to say, just hush."

Helping believers identify and reject bad doctrine is biblical kindness. It's right. We should do that. BUT, we should also teach people that without humility, we are in opposition to God. We should also remember the debt we've been forgiven before going out to choke the person we think owes us something (ref. Matthew 18:21-35). IF we teach people to reject bad doctrine, perhaps they can do that and preserve good relationship. PERHAPS they can still act in compassion and love toward the person they are recognizing bad doctrine or bad behavior in! Reject the falsehood, but TRY to love the person who's caught in it.

Let me say it one more time: Be careful in naming, blaming, disclaiming and defaming people!

Repent. Stop it. I love you.

God flavors....

Let’s go public…

I’ve been enjoying reading a second reading of a paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. Of course, you all know that I love the ESV and KJV the best, but I also enjoy reading other translations and paraphrased editions of God’s Word. Lately, reading The Message, many old, familiar passages have been given a new light for me. Here’s one: “’Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.’  Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand - shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’” (Matthew 5:13-16).

I love the way that passage kicks off; “Let me tell you why you are here.” We often feel like we have no purpose, and that there is nothing special for us to do. If you know Christ as Savior today, then you have a special mission in which God has entrusted to you. You are to bring out the God-flavor to the world. How much time do we spend being God-flavor? Most of the time, we are too busy kicking our own flavor! Over the summer, let’s not lose our saltiness or we might get kicked…kicked to the curb!

The passage goes on to say that Christ has put a light in us. How many of us walk in the dark with our hands over our flashlights? Nobody does that! It would be ridiculous! In The Message paraphrase Jesus words come out like this: “We’re going public with this.” How good are we at going public with the light Jesus has put in us? Are we covering it with a bucket? Sometimes that bucket is in the form of being cool, being lazy, or being preoccupied with selfish things. Whatever form the bucket is in your life, lose it. Jesus says “SHINE!” There is a popular song that says “Shine! Make ‘em wonder what you’ve got. Make ‘em wish that they were not on the outside looking in.” Jesus wants us to shine so that others will see Him in us and want to know Him for themselves. How’s your Jesus light bulb? Fading? Dim? Out? Bright? Burning? Blinding? Don’t cover the light…go public!

You may be saying “How do I do this?” Great question! I urge us all to find our riches in Christ., Paul said everything besides Christ was like “dung”. Before we can shine, we've GOT to make Christ our all. We must so love His presence that everything else pales in comparison. THEN we’ve got to share Him.

Now you may be saying “How do I share Him?” Boy, you guys ask some good questions! Do acts of service and kindness in the name of Christ simply because you love Him. Share the Gospel! Share it! Let that tongue tell of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus; tell others that Jesus’s death is enough to pay for our sins and Jesus’s life is enough to change our lives, give us power and make us useful in Kingdom work!! He has been so good to us all; we simply need to spend our lives in response to Him. He’s already at work around us, so we’ve just got to join in. How about it? Want to SHINE?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Gang I'd Join

What is the best group of friends you have ever hung around with? What made that group so special?
Read about a group that holds a special place in my heart. This group’s story can be found in the book of Acts. “They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved” (2:42-47 – New Living Translation).
This group had their priorities straight! They loved Jesus, and in turn loved one another. There was no posturing and no one thought themselves greater than anyone else. When there was a need, this group responded. They shared what they had. Some even sold their possessions to help others in need! Would you do that?
Again, they had their priorities straight. We come to church on Sundays and Wednesdays and consider that a burden at times. These believers got together every day and worshipped God at the Temple. Yep, you read that correctly…they got together EVERY DAY!
What was the secret of their success? Number one, they loved Jesus. In response to their love for Jesus they submitted themselves to Biblical teaching every day. Not only submitted themselves, but the Bible says they “devoted” themselves to Biblical teachings. They spent intimate time together in “fellowship”. That means that they shared their lives with one another; good times, struggles, joy, and sorrow. Their lives were intertwined. Regularly, they shared the Lord’s Supper. Sharing that sacred meal meant that they examined themselves and remembered what the body and blood of Christ had done for them. Finally, they prayed together. There cannot be many sentiments of superiority or feelings of ill will between people who constantly pray together. I’d imagine they prayed for each others needs. That means they had to be open and honest with one another. I’d imagine they prayed God’s will be done, just as Jesus instructed believers to do. That would mean they had to forsake their agendas.
The result of such a lifestyle was that that group experienced the “goodwill of all the people” and that “the Lord added to their group those who were being saved”. The community around that group was drawn to them. Actually, I believe God was using this group of selfless servants to draw people to Himself.
Would you like to be part of a group like that? What are you willing to sacrifice to God to be in such a group? How similar is our youth group to that congregation of Acts 2:42-47? What can you do to make our youth group be like that of the early church? Are you willing to change your priorities?
I’d love to be in a fellowship like that. I’d love to be in a group like that with YOU!

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus the Son,

Tim Bowes

Romans 12:1-2

"Limp in -- leap out"

"Limp in -- leap out"
Nehemiah 8:1-12
"... the joy of the Lord is your strength." (v.10)
Joy is part of a Christian's armor. Jealousy, for example, can quickly find a lodging place in a heart which is unsatisfied. The joy of Jesus banishes all that. This particular fruit of the Spirit secures us from the sins which can so easily beset us. Brimming joy, for example, helps to cancel out any envy that may arise within us. Instead, our souls long to share the treasures that we ourselves have found.
Joy keeps us alert and alive spiritually. Disease germs, we are told, penetrate most easily into a body debilitated by despondency. So do the termites of the spirit. They enter without ceremony and eat away the health of the soul. Joy gives them no room. It immunizes the spirit against attack. Joy is not just the bloom of health; it is its protection also. Remember, you are made for joy and if there is not joy in your life, then there is something wrong: joy is being blocked. Clear away the blocks and joy comes automatically.
If you are conscious that you lack this deep abiding joy, then look within. Ask yourself: how close am I to God? What steps do I need to take to deepen my relationship with Him? Give yourself to Him fully. If He is to transfer to you His total joy, then He must have the total you. A garage has a sign: "Limp in -- leap out." That's what will happen to you when you surrender yourself fully to Him. You will limp in and leap out. God is not withholding Himself and you must not withhold yourself. Where the two meet, joy is inevitable.


O Father, forgive me that I go bumping through life on the broken springs of pleasure when I ought to be cruising in joy. I submit my life to You today for spiritual repairs. I limp in -- help me to leap out. Amen.

By: Selwyn Hughes 

Love, not just noise; real love, not imitation...

Whatever else you might be "doing for God", if it's not love and of love, it's all just noise. Noise. No substance, but the clanging that results from doing something else instead of what ought to be / has to be done. 

But, don't call stuff "love" that's not love. Real love ALWAYS bears in it the nature and character of God. 

No love = just noise. 
Love that is not like the nature of God = imitation.

We do a lot of things in the name of "love" that aren't love at all, because those things do not reflect the holiness of God.

We do a lot of things in the name of God that don't reflect love, and those things are not really of God!

Think on these things, dear friends!

"But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine." (2 Corinthians 8:7-8 ESV)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who do we desire to flourish? Who do we want to make famous?

Look for the leader who isn't concerned about their reputation... 

Too many people want to be liked. Too many people want to be thought well of. Too many people want to be seen as clever. Too many value popularity over righteousness. 

Thank God, Jesus didn't work in society to secure His reputation; He worked to obey His Father. 

"The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood." (John 7:18 ESV)

In your company, look for people who are ambitious for the company to succeed. They promote the company's ideal, speak the company's message, pursue the company's mission. Look for that person that is ambitious to make the whole organization thrive. It's rare to (1) find a company worth living for like that and (2) find the person worth following a good mission.

This is doubly true of spiritual endeavors. 

That's why I love Jesus so much. He came to obey the Father. Jesus did not come to build a personal reputation; He did not come with original designs, desires and ambitions. He came to speak what the Father wanted Him to speak, do what the Father wanted Him to do and make the Father famous in the process. 

Too many preacher boys today want to be famous. They want to write books and blogs (I've written a book and have a blog...LOL!...you're reading this on my blog!) and be known far and wide. They want to be known for their thoughts and their sayings. They want to be on the radio (I'm on the radio! LOL!) and they want a website and a podcast and all the trappings of religious success...even moolah. 

Now, there are a great many preachers who do not desire to be famous; those are the ones who want Jesus to be famous! 

Those are the people to listen to! They say what Jesus says! They say what the Father says! They reveal the work of the Spirit! It's not about them! They want the Body of Christ to flourish, and not just their personal bottom line.

And, you know what? You don't have to be a preacher to care about the words of Jesus. You don't have to be a preacher to have a heart desire to see the Body flourish. Likewise, you don't have to be a preacher to fall into the trap of using religion to promote self. 

Whatever level, trade or profession, look for people who want others to flourish. Look for people who are not ambitious for their reputation, but for the success of the whole. In the faith, especially, look for people who desire to make God famous and who care for the Body of Christ. 

Might such a person be well known in the process? Yes. 
Might such a person be quoted by others? Yes. 
Should such a person parlay this "success" into riches and self promotion? No. 

Jesus does not need our reputation. He has one. Let's make His name famous and introduce Him to people and let Him worry about both His and our reputations. 

The example of Jesus convicts and inspires on so many levels!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Don't forget the primary mission of Jesus...

Jesus is a good teacher, but don't forget His primary mission...
Jesus is a great example, but don't forget His primary mission...
Jesus works miracles, but don't forget His primary mission...
Jesus receives children, but don't forget His primary mission...
Jesus confronted religious people, but don't forget His primary mission...
Jesus dealt with demons, but don't forget His primary mission...
Jesus heals the sick, but don't forget His primary mission...
Jesus calls people to serve Him, but don't forget His primary mission...
"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, THAT CHRIST JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD TO SAVE SINNERS, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV, emphasis mine)
We love it when Jesus deals with others, but Jesus also wants to deal with us. He wants to save sinners! He wants to save EVERY sinner! He wants to save YOU! He has saved me! I am being saved! I will be saved! That's what Jesus came to do!
Whatever you might think of Jesus, don't forget His primary mission! HE CAME TO SAVE SINNERS!
Don't expect Jesus to deal with you in any of His offices and capacities while His main mission toward you has yet to be dealt with! HE CAME TO SAVE SINNERS!
He did not come to approve of sin; He came to save sinners...
He did not come to fulfill the "American Dream"; He came to save sinners...
He did not come to make us wealthy; He came to save sinners...
He did not come to give us empty religion; He came to save sinners...
Let us not talk about Jesus without considering this faithful saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!
Hey, sinner, Jesus came to save you! 
He came to save you from God's wrath...
He came to save you from Satan's grasp...
He came to save you from yourself...
He came to save you from hell...
He came to save you from just judgment... 
And, more...
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! 
Like Paul, I can say, "...of whom I am foremost." 
I thank God the Father that God the Son came to save sinners, for surely He came to save me!
I believe on Jesus...
I receive the Lord Jesus...
By grace, through faith, this sinner is saved by Jesus!

How about you?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Courier-Times article for September 13, 2014

Do you believe in demons?

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:22-32 ESV)

The greatest tragedy of Western culture is considering the world without God. To match that tragedy, the greatest danger is not understanding the wickedness, malevolence, and evil in the world as the work of a spiritual enemy. Frankly speaking, many do not believe in God, nor do they believe in the work of Satan and demons.

Recently, a high school student and I were talking; he said, “Nah, I don’t believe in ‘demons’ and ‘the devil’ and all that stuff.”

Knowing this young man to be an engaging, intelligent believer, I was astounded and quickly retorted, “What? Really? Jesus certainly believed in demons!”

The reality of that answer sunk fast and deep into the young man’s spirit. Eye brows arched in surprise, revealing he’d never considered that line of reasoning. Not thoroughly convinced, he said, “We’ve got to talk about this some more!”

We did discuss it; we talked about it that week, and again the next week, and all afternoon another day during summer break. We opened the Scriptures and we considered how demons suppress truth, oppress believers and possess the spiritually empty. We talked about how we see the same work going on in the world today.

There is a definite danger in failing to regard the existence of demons in the world today. For me, the fact that Jesus believed in them, encountered them and engaged with them is enough to convince me! How can one say one believes in Jesus and not believe in the very things Jesus believed in?

I’m quite sure demons love to be disregarded. Anything dangerous ignored is doubly strong; it exists and has the power of surprise.

Take the man in today’s passage. An oppressing demon made the man blind and mute. Jesus both casts out the demon and heals the sickness.

Notice, no one marvels that a demon was at work.
Notice, no one is surprised that a demon was disabling someone.

What people were surprised about was that Jesus both recognized the problem and was able to do something about it. Not only could Jesus do something about it, He said – and proved – that though demons are stronger than people, and strong enough to harass, oppress and possess people, He is stronger than those strong demons!

As for me, I not only believe demons are at work in the world, I believe Jesus is at work in me! I stand with the Apostle John, who said, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV) Yes and praise the Lord! He is in me and He is greater and stronger than the enemy at work in the world!
Without God in us, we are subject to the powers of many stronger than us!

Lastly, there’s an even greater danger revealed in this passage than demons. The greatest danger is ignoring the Lord Jesus. The greater danger is ignoring the work of the Holy Spirit. A demon can do a lot of things, but a demon cannot judge us and send us into outer darkness. As much as we’d be wise to recognize the work of demons, we’d be wiser still to recognize the person of Christ. 

In Christ, the Local Church pictures Hostility being Crushed

The local church I'm a part of has its weekly, corporate gathering on Sunday nights (versus Sunday morning, which is more typical where we live). That being said, I usually go somewhere on Sunday mornings; sometimes to preach, sometimes to rep YFC, sometimes to simply enjoy the Body of Christ. This morning, I decided to rest a bit and wait for our local church's gathering tonight. So, here I am watching Thomas Road Baptist Church's weekly service. It's great...it's better than watching a lot of other things I could be watching...the music is awesome...the mission focus on Guatemala was inspiring...I'm betting the preaching will be solid (hadn't gotten to it yet)...BUT NOTHING REPLACES the dynamic of actually being together, and nothing is supposed to REPLACE it! Things like this can encourage us, but we are designed for community. The Spirit calls us to community. The Lord commands us to community. For any of my dear and beloved FB friends who enjoy watching church services on TV, don't stop! Don't stop listening to solid doctrine; don't stop singing along with the choirs, praise teams and soloists...BUT DO GATHER WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST IN PERSON AND REGULARLY! Do not think for one moment that what is coming across the TV waves is enough. True, it may be all you have at this moment, but don't let it stay that way!

One of the great testimonies of the church is to live on display. In other words, we live out in the world and among each other, that God's work might be seen in us. I'm oft encouraged by this passage: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." (Ephesians 2:13-16 ESV)

One of the beautiful things about the work of Christ is breaking down walls of division. Primarily and preeminently, Christ breaks down the walls between God and sinful men and women. But, Jesus also destroys the dividing walls of hostility between man and man. He brings peace. A church gathering puts that peace on display. Local churches gather and show -- or SHOULD show -- that we CAN unite in Christ and focus together on Him. Local churches should embrace diversity that puts the dividing-wall-busting power of Jesus on display...
Rich and poor, together because of Jesus...
Old and young, together because of Jesus...
Differing races, together because of Jesus...
Differing levels of education together, because of Jesus...
Professionals and laborers together, because of Jesus..
And, more...

See it, yet?

The peace and the diversity and the joy...together...needs to be on display, for our joy and our growth...but for more than that, for God's glory!

There are more reasons to be involved in a local church -- bodily involved, spiritually involved, etc. -- but the reason that is encouraging my heart this morning is the desire to bring God glory as we display His walls-of-division-destroying heart!

If you have no 11:00 AM church home, perhaps you are reading this so I can invite you to be a part of our 6:00 PM church home. If you have an 11:00 AM church home -- or 10:30 or 8:30 or AM in general -- perhaps you are reading this to either #1 remind you to be there next week OR #2 to encourage your heart as to the reason to be there OR #3 embrace diversity for the glory of God. Desire unity in solid doctrine, for it truly does unify, and diversity in people-type. Ask God to break down walls of hostility and put that on display in local churches!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Withdraw, and pray...

Withdraw, and pray...

Jesus healed many, people thronged to Him with requests... He withdrew to pray (Luke 5:12-16). When we are busy, pressed by life, we should withdraw and pray.

Jesus healed a friend's mom, healed many more, dealt with demons and withdrew to pray; upon withdrawing to pray, Jesus prepared to preach (Mark 1:29-39). Whether having been busy in ministry, being pressed in spiritual warfare or preparing for spiritual work, we ought to withdraw and pray.

Jesus healed a man's withered hand, realized the intentions of conspiring persecutors and He withdrew (Matthew 12:9-16). Whether He prayed or not, Jesus withdrew. He came apart from the conspirators and continued His work. When we are serving the Lord, pressure comes, and we must be discerning when we ought to go forth, and when we ought to withdraw. Jesus's pattern seemed to be to go forth in work and withdraw into intimate fellowship with the Father. We'd be wise to follow His pattern.

In the death of John the Baptist, Jesus experienced the loss of a cousin, saw the persecution of the righteous, witnessed the wickedness of ruling powers and loss an honorable partner in Kingdom work; then, Jesus withdrew to pray (Matthew 14:1-13). In loss, we should withdraw in prayer. In empathy with the persecuted, we should withdraw to pray. In the oppressing pressure of this wicked world, we should withdraw to pray.

Jesus intended to withdraw in prayer when He heard of the death of John, but was interrupted by the necessity of ministry; doubly needful now, Jesus did indeed withdraw (Matthew 14:22-33). When our need to pray is interrupted, we must remain committed to our need to pray! (Fact is, we probably rarely realize how deep our need to pray is!)
In discerning those He would call into apostolic ministry, Jesus prayed ALL NIGHT LONG (Luke 6:12-16). We all face big decisions, and we'd be wise to withdraw and pray, seek the Father, and ask for discernment.

In Matthew 26:26-44, Jesus knew He was facing the cross; He withdrew to pray on multiple occasions over the course of the entire night, AND recruited others to pray as well. None of us face dying for the sins of mankind by crucifixion, but all of us face bearing our cross. In going to the cross, Jesus also knew for the first / only time that He would have fellowship with the Father broken, so He prayed all night. In the prospects of bearing our own cross, or at the risk -- which is daily -- of fellowship being broken with our heavenly Father, we NEED to pray!

For every important reason, Jesus prayed. He didn't always withdraw, but at many times and for many reasons, He did. There's a lesson in this for us! Even when Jesus did not withdraw, His prayer life was active, vibrant and constant.

Our life necessitates prayer! Prayer is our opportunity and our privilege! Whatever you're facing, withdraw and pray.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Hey, Misfit, God loves you through and through...

Here are some facts your heart needs to remember this morning... 

God made you. In your mom's womb, God personally knitted you together. He likes the way you look. Your hair and eyes are beautiful to Him. Your cheek bones and your nose and your skinny/fat/long/short feet were fashioned in His heart and created by His hand. He breathed life into you. He made you to please Himself. You ARE fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Now, you may feel like a misfit toy. 

You may BE a misfit toy. Lord knows, I've felt like a misfit toy most of my life. I reckon the feelings are founded.

Sometimes, we're different because circumstances beyond our control have affected us in ways even we cannot quite explain. 

Sometimes, we're different because we are warped by our own sin.

Sometimes, we're different because God fashioned that difference into us. 

He's working on and out the circumstances. We need to turn to Him about the sin, own it and seek healing. We need to embrace the way we're different. Don't confuse the way we're made and our sin; where we're different because of sin, that's on us. Still, God sees that and desires to work in that, too!

Either way, God loves you. He loves you, not in the romantic sense, but in the sense of action and mercy and grace and benevolent concern over His creation. He has ACTED in love for us...over and over and over...sustaining creation, NOT striking us dead as our sin deserves...and...no, AND, in giving the precious blood of Jesus to pay the penalty of our sin.

Whenever you wonder if God loves you, remember...
  • He personally made you
  • He IS exercising grace and mercy right now; today ('cause you're breathing!)
  • He sustains creation to support you
  • He gave Jesus to win you
  • He is revealing Himself to you (How? you might ask...even right now, He is showing you Himself through these reminders -- or, for some, they may be revelations)
Sure, many of us feel like misfit toys, rejected by the "normal" folk. Sure, many of us feel broken. Well, actually, all of us ARE broken. But, today is a good day to heed the voice of the Lord. Today is a good day to call out to Father God, Lord Jesus and Helper Spirit...come over me, we might pray, make me new...be near me...I see [remember] Your goodness to me in Christ Jesus...I need You...I confess, I am broken...I am a misfit...I need You, Lord! More than ever, today, I need You. 

I love the precious words of Jesus, calling to even mine own heart today: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 ESV)

Unlike people, God sees you. He knows you. AND, He loves you through and through.

Will Reagan and United Pursuit do well to musically remind us of God's beautiful, all-knowing, yet loving understanding of us...

In the children's special Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, King Moonracer has to give Rudolph and his friends special permission to stay on the Island of Misfit Toys. King Moonracer's provision is simple; Rudolph can stay one night, but they must go tell Santa about the island so Santa will help find these toys special, loving places to live.

God's story for me and you is a little different. In Jesus, the Father accepts us and never casts us out. In Jesus, we are home. In Jesus, there is room for every misfit toy. In Jesus, we have family. In Jesus, we have mission; we can tell all the toys -- misfit or not -- they too can have a home where they are loved!

He does see us. He does know us. And, He loves us through and through. God will take us as we are, but, praise Him, He does not leave us there. Are you the train with the square wheels? Are you the spotted elephant? Are you the red nosed reindeer? God will use your difference or heal it...whatever is required for you and whatever is good for His glory!