Saturday, May 30, 2015

Identity

One night, back in January, I sat down and preached a sermon to my soul in bits and pieces. I reviewed it again this morning, and thought I would share it all as one piece. 


If you enjoy God's word and seeing what He has to say about things, then stay tuned tonight for a special treat. See, I believe in preaching to myself, especially when I am breathing.
Today, I had to write a sermon just to Tim, but it was so good to my soul that I am going to shrink it into bite sizes pieces and give it to my FB friends. It's called "Who Believers are and what God calls us." I'll tell you why I sought the Scriptures out for these two things... people will tell you what they think you are and who they think you are. SOMETIMES they'll ask, "Who do you think you are?" or "What do you think you're doing?" Rarely are they inquisitive; usually brusque, at best. So, my beloved friends in Christ Jesus, I have learned it's healthy to listen to another voice; to lean in and believe what God is saying, rather than being made anxious by what everyone else is saying. Anxious? Ain't nobody got time for that!
Homie don't play that. I took it to the Lord in prayer (see Philippians 4:6-7), and He reminded me of Psalm 42... "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you..." (Psalm 42:5-6 ESV) That's right! I preached to me, hoped in God and remembered His good words and works. He reminded me of who we are in Christ and what He calls us in Christ.


Who we are ... What God calls us #1
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are saved from condemnation. Hell is not our destiny!
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1 ESV)
Often, the enemy screams, but most of the time he simply whispers, "You're not worthy"; "you're no good"; "how dare you think God loves you!' What a big, fat-headed liar the enemy is! We who believe in Jesus are saved from condemnation! Whether the enemy whispers or screams, you remind him who you are in Christ.

Who we are ... What God calls us #2
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are at peace with God.
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1 ESV)
Since sin came into the world, man has been at enmity --in hate-- with God. Jesus paid the sin debt, and any who receive His payment take part in the peace He purchased for we who believe.
When the enemy preaches war, we proclaim peace. In Christ, we are at peace with the Father!

Who we are ... What God calls us #3
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are in possession of eternal life.
"Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:12 ESV)
People might say, "You don't deserve eternal life!" 
We can answer honestly, "You're right. Praise God, it doesn't depend on me!" 
In Christ, we are possessors of eternal life, not based on our merit, but based on His sacrifice on the cross and defeat of death.

Who we are ... What God calls us #4
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are made right!
"...and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Romans 3:24 ESV)
Many of us have experienced that overwhelming feeling that SOMETHING else needs to be done. Many of have experienced that overwhelming feeling that we simply ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Sometimes, that's the voice of the enemy. Sometimes, that's a thousand voices of our personal history collecting against us.
Friend, show them all the receipt that is CALVARY! He's paid it all! The bill has been made right. It is finished! We are justified in Christ Jesus!

Who we are ... What God calls us #5
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
"...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Romans 3:22 ESV)
We do have to face it, our righteousness is no better than filthy rags (see Isaiah 64:6). And, people will let us know it, too. We'll let ourselves know it. The enemy will definitely let us know it. God has let us know it!
Good news! In Christ, we get new clothes! YES! Hallelujah!

Who we are ... What God calls us #6
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are of great value.
"...for you were bought with a price." (1 Corinthians 6:20a ESV)
Just think about it...our sin was so serious that it cost Jesus His life. Likewise, our lives are so valuable, God sent His only begotten Son to redeem us. Wow!
How many times have you felt worthless? Yes, we all go through it. You are NOT worthless! In Christ, we are of great value! We were bought with a precious price!

Who we are ... What God calls us #7
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are made part of God's family.
"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God," (John 1:12 ESV)
It hurts not to belong. It hurts to be alone.
When God offered us Jesus, and when we accepted, we became family! We are in the Father's household. What a privilege! That's why the Spirit makes it natural for us to call Him "Abba" -- Daddy (see Romans 8:15).
I am so thankful to belong. Thank You, Jesus.


Who we are ... What God calls us #8
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are set apart --sanctified-- as God's special possession for God's special purposes.
"To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)
Uncommon. That's us. In Christ, we are not meant for the ordinary. We're set apart for God's good pleasure and purposes. The common becomes destroyed, but the set apart is carefully protected.
But, the best part of being sanctified is where God places us...IN Christ. What a wonderful place to be situated and safe.

Who we are ... What God calls us #9 
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are something new; something we've never been before.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Whatever sin has made us, in Christ Jesus, we're becoming something else. We're becoming like HIM! Wow! Listen, God sees it...He sees it completed even though sometimes we can't sense it's happening. He sees you as new; He's hidden you in His Son and when He looks, He sees Jesus...day by day, He is making you into what He already chooses to see you as.
Boom...when I think of this, I'm blown away...

Who we are ... What God calls us #10
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are accepted. Yes, it's another way to look at the fact that we are adopted, but let's think on it...
"...In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will," (Ephesians 1:4c-5 ESV)
We aren't foster kids. We're not the always-around-neighbor kids. God has accepted us into His family. He's given us His name. He's made us His.
In a world filled with so much rejection, praise God, in Christ we are accepted by the Father!

Who we are ... What God calls us #11
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are qualified.
"...giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Colossians 1:12 ESV)
You've had some experience in your life where you had lessons to learn, tests to pass, levels to achieve, and standards to meet before someone would say, "You are qualified." Think about your school career; that diploma says you've accomplished at least the bare minimum to graduate (you've qualified).
We'd never be qualified for heaven on our own.
We'd never be qualified for fellowship with the Father on our own. 
We'd never be qualified for righteousness on our own.
In Christ, we are qualified. In the instant we receive Him we have reached BOTH the minimum and the maximum. In the least, we must have Jesus. In Jesus, we have the most bestest greatest of good and wonderful. Yes, in Jesus, to say the least, we are qualified.

Who we are ... What God calls us #12
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are protected and pronounced.
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit," (Ephesians 1:13 ESV)
The Father calls us into the Son and the Spirit locks the door. We are sealed in Christ! That means we are protected, and neither powers above or powers below can snatch us from the Father's hand nor separate us from the Son's love. We are sealed!
We are also pronounced authentic. The Spirit testifies on our behalf (see John 3:31-36).
When Satan calls you a fake, you can refer Him to the Spirit. 
When Satan tries to snatch you, he can't crack the door open. 
In Jesus, you are safe.

Who we are ... What God calls us #13
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are blessed.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places," (Ephesians 1:3 ESV)
The world tempts us to keep up with the Joneses, so we must remember Him who gave life to our boneses. We're blessed. The poorest saint has a treasure in Christ that makes them richer than the wealthiest person who has Jesus not.
All that is coming to Jesus is coming to us. He has made us co-heirs to Himself and His fortune. Wow! WE ARE BLESSED!

Who we are ... What God calls us #14
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us children.
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
Sure, as has been previously said, we are adopted, named into the family, but it's important to see what God calls us...not cousin...not a "step" child...but child.
See, friend, under sin it's true to say we are creations of God. We're all given our substance by Him and He knits each of us together in our mothers' wombs and He breathes the breath of life into each of us. But, in Christ, we move from being only-creation to both creation AND child.
When bullies come after me, because I am His child, I will call my Daddy!

Who we are ... What God calls us #15
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us servants.
"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property." (Matthew 25:14 ESV)
God does not need us in His work, but He calls us into His work. From Him, we get holy, good and eternal purpose. We get Kingdom labor that matters and we labor at our normal labors as if unto God Himself.
"Who do you work for?" some might ask. 
We could say this company or that company.
Truth be told, God has called us servants, and HIS work and HIS company are better than all others combined!
Never let anyone tell us our labor matters not!
Who we are ... What God calls us #16
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us friends.
"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15 ESV)
You've heard it said: you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. In our case, God picked us for both. He wants our company.
Let that sink into your heart...
This old world makes you feel like you're not wanted. God wants you. In Christ Jesus, He calls you friend. He wants to spend time with you, hear your stories, laugh with you, comfort you as you weep, struggle beside you as you journey along; God wants you.

Who we are ... What God calls us #17
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us saints.
"To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:" (1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)
We think that word --saints-- is reserved for old Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox guys. No, it's what God calls all who He places in Christ. We're all "set apart" --Greek: hagios; "saints"-- in Christ. That's how He sees us and that's what He calls us.
He calls us that because it speaks of our position and His intention. He has set us apart and He has set us apart; He's made us holy to make us holy.
Friend, in Jesus, YOU ARE A saint!


Who we are ... What God calls us #18
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us sheep.
"To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:3 ESV)
That speaks to our need for leadership and His willingness for tender care.
Some, at various times, have accurately noticed that sheep aren't very smart, and it feels like a degradation to be called a sheep in that light. But, think about it, compared to the shepherd, sheep aren't so smart!
Compared to God, we aren't very sharp. But, more than that, it speaks to His willingness to patiently lead and care for us. He takes us into His flock to lead us, sure, but to protect us, too.
With God as my Shepherd, I definitely love being called a sheep!

Who we are ... What God calls us #19
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us brothers.
"For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers," (Hebrews 2:11 ESV)
Children of God, right? Right. Brothers with Jesus.
Just let that soak in.
Servants for the work. 
Saints set apart. 
Children as part of the family. 
Friends for the fellowship. 
Sheep for the tender care. 
Brothers with the Lord Jesus...
Gracious God, Almighty King...YOU are good to we who believe! We are received and accepted, loved and adopted, wanted and worthy...Just because of Jesus.

Who we are ... What God calls us #20
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us Christians.
"...and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians." (Acts 11:26 ESV)
The people in Antioch --probably the unbelieving people in Antioch-- gave us this name, but it was because God set these folks apart and they responded to His work by acting like His Son. So, people called them Christians --it's like saying "a little Christ".

God let the label stick. That's what He wants the world to call us. He wants us to earn this name! No matter if the world means it in derision, let us bear it in honor.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Words and actions



When few words equal big action...

When standing in the throng, or riding in our cars alone, it's wise to consider whether the songs we are singing are vows we plan to keep.

Vows are a big deal. "When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow." (Ecclesiastes 5:4 ESV)

For example, have you ever sung "Have Thine on way, Lord, have Thine own way. Hold over my being absolute sway"? I have. Think about what the singer of a song just requested... Okay, yes, that's a request. It's a major request! It's asking God to be Lord over every single part of one's life.

How about this one? "I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee, my blessed Savior; I surrender all." Vow. Promise.

Or, this one... "Wherever He leads I’ll go; wherever He leads I’ll go, I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, wherever He leads I’ll go." Will we?

There are tons of examples. Just start thinking of your favorite songs, or the ones you hear a lot. Think about what they say. One last song: "Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee...Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love; take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee." Wow!

I surrender all...
Have Thine own way...
Wherever He leads, I'll go...
Take my life...

What have we promised? What have we vowed?
What have we prayed? Are we willing for God to fulfill it today?

Think about it, if we say, "Father, do with my life what pleases You", that is permission for God to change everything! It's an invitation for Him to change everything!

Read 2 Chronicles 15 some time. It's an incredible revival story. A prophecy was given through Azariah. King Asa received the prophecy. The Bible says, "As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage..." (2 Chronicles 15:8a ESV)

The few words Azariah spoke became big action! When Asa regarded those words in his heart, they became big action. First, he regarded them in in heart. Then, Asa began to give life to those words: "...he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the LORD that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the LORD." (2 Chronicles 15:8b ESV)

As king, because Asa listened to God, everything in their nation began to change! They tore down idols built to false deities and built up things that honored the Lord.

That's a picture of the work and results of revival.
The same picture is true of personal revival.
A word comes to us...
We receive it...
We began to tear down, reject, repent of things that do not honor God.
Then, we build up the things that do honor God.
We turn to His word to determine what stays and what goes.

Israel should never gotten to the place that foreign altars were left in the land God had given them. Let's look back before the days of Asa: "Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods." (Exodus 34:12-16 ESV)

They did not obey God in driving out ungodly peoples in taking on God's promise, so, later on, after several generations had been infected and affected, the work had to continue.

What things has God long ago shown you that still need to be driven out?

What vows have you made?

Can you see how the little prayer -- "have Thine own way" -- could turn into life changing action and result?

What are we willing to allow the Lord to change in our lives?
What would change if He really was Lord of...

Our lives? Words? Hobbies? Wallet?

Our family? What we get our kids involved in? How we disciple them?

Our churches? What if budgets and clocks and calendars were surrendered to Him?

We should sing "Have Thine own way" and mean it. When we do, those few words can equal big action.

Here are my words today: "Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me."

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Philosophy reflection #2: Pythagoras



Pythagoras of Samos is undoubtedly known by every geometry student on the face of the planet for his theorem. He may be less known for his philosophy, but the numbers Pythagoras’ Theorem help us figure out also lean into Pythagoras’ thinking. He ought to be known for his philosophy, for he surely influenced many! But, who?

Here’s a hint; one could easily draw a line from Pythagoras’ 6th century BC philosophy to Nostradamus’ 16th century AD prophecies. What could the connection be?

Pythagoras was the forefather of numerology, which is the – I believe, occultic – belief that numbers are the key to understanding everything. For example, someone dedicated to numerology as their philosophy would study the numbers in someone’s birthdate and draw wild conclusions.

Pythagoras believed the nature of the universe to be arithmetical. This was never more pointed than in his belief that the very fabric of the universe was made of music and was expressed in the intervals between musical tones.

Well, all geometry students are both thankful for Pythagoras’ command of numbers, and all the folks who really love math love Pythagoras for discovering and explaining irrational numbers. Honestly, I am not thankful at all for these mathematical discoveries! My head spins at their very mention!

Pythagoras took things too far; even numerical things. His lasting legacy of mathematical genius has blessed the world, but his social, political and philosophical ideas are the stuff the world ought to forget.

Pythagoras loved and believed in numbers so much that he reverenced certain numbers and numerical patterns. He worshipped math! Oh my!

Before you take to fondly remembering your favorite algebra teacher, let me also tell you Pythagoras believed in the transmigration of souls and reincarnation. If that’s not enough, he venerated beans to the point of forbidding his disciples from eating them. In simplest of terms, the nut worshiped beans!

Now, some people, such as agnostic / atheist, Bertrand Russell inflated Pythagoras’ contribution to Christian thought, saying, “The whole conception of an eternal world, revealed to the intellect but not to the senses, is derived from [Pythagoras]. But for him, Christians would not have thought of Christ as the Word; but for him, theologians would not have sought logical proofs of God and immortality.” (History of Western Philosophy)

On balance, what little Pythagoras added to the discipline of thought is far, far, far outweighed by his helpfulness in the arena of math, which, I might add, is serious thought, too, but in the former, I am referencing philosophy. And, we should pay some thankful homage to Pythagoras’ for his early understanding of music. Let’s face it; when it came to religion, Pythagoras was a nut.

Now, what has any of this to do with anything worth thinking of?

Some Pythagoreans so love him they give him near messianic acclaim, but, the truth is Pythagoras was no one’s savior, and especially not the Savior.

What I can say is Pythagoras’ thinking was thought about and out by many, and that Nostradamus and Marcion are directly in his line is enough to cause me caution, and more than enough for me to say, enough.

Where some, like the aforementioned Thales, thought only of what they could physically observe, Pythagoras was guilty of solid observation followed by flaky conclusions. He was a spiritual man, but, and here goes…what spirit? Or, spirits?

So, in thinking of thinkers, and thinking of the thinker, Pythagoras, I think this of Pythagoras: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.” (1 John 4:1-3 NLT)

Is Pythagoras’ worth knowing?
For a math student, absolutely.
For a philosophy student, absolutely.
For Regular Joes like me, well…with caution, and very little credence.



Like all thinkers, I pour their thoughts through the Scripture, and what survives that filter is worth considering. Pythagoras is indeed helpful, but more for math than spiritual life. Add it up and subtract the negatives; hang on the Pythagoras in the calculator but drop him from Sunday school.J

Philosophy reflection #1: Thales

If Herodotus is the "Father of Western History", it can safely be said that Thales of Miletus could be called the "Father of Western Philosophy." The hallmark of Thales' philosophy was his process of thinking, which could be characterized as observing natural matter, making hypotheses and drawing conclusions divorced from the consideration of the supernatural or mythology. Of those thinkers before Thales, of whom we have little to no record, it could be said they started with the gods, and Thales started without them. Thales didn't lean on the stories of the gods; he turned away from them.
Thales would not go on to say there was no god, but that god was in all things (quite eastern in his thinking in this way). However, when it came to natural phenomena, Thales was the first to begin with what we now call the empirical method, trusting only what he could observe to make his hypotheses and draw his conclusions.
Now, I'm not one to call another a fool, nor do I wish to call Thales a fool. I didn't know the man! I'll just say I believe the Scriptures, which I believe are of the Living God, so I'll say, I believe God when He says, "Only fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1b NLT)
What's my point in all of this? I think Thales was wise to observe natural phenomena. I think he was wise to think and test and observe. I think he was wise to look at what was seen in the natural order of things, but I think he was wrong to begin without the supernatural.
Why?
Simple... I believe and HONEST look at what is will lead to a plain understanding of what ALSO IS. Paul would say it like this: "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)
In simplest terms, if one starts looking determined NOT to see God, one will close one's eyes, minds and hearts to Him. However, if one looks with any honesty, they will see a design, thus a Designer, and if a Designer, intelligence, will, personality, etc.

Are we willing to discover what is? Who is? 
Are we willing to observe and understand? 
Are we willing to be students in every area of our lives?