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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Respect (Part 2)

Respect (Part 2)

A second life application: Ask for the grace to initiate reconciliation with those you have a grievance with, feel resentment toward or are bitter against. This is a hard thing, but it is commanded of us.

The Holy Spirit can help us develop respect when we are willing to invite people who have a grievance against us to come and seek resolution of the issue. Solomon wrote, "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; Rebuke a wise man and he will love you." (Proverbs 9:8) Ask the Lord to help you to remain humble enough to accept rebukes and become wiser.

The Holy Spirit can help us build respect when we are willing to consider that the opinions of others are valuable and worthy of applications, or at least serious consideration. Paul wrote, "Do nothing from factional motives (through contentiousness, strife, selfishness or for unworthy ends) or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself (thinking more highly of someone else than you do ourselves). (Phil. 2:3) We should continually ask for the gifts of humility, wisdom, knowledge and teachability to value one another’s opinions, ideas and feelings.

The Holy Spirit can help us build respect when we make it known that we have no intention of manipulating other people for our own good end. We are to be servants to each other. And, servants serve! We must resist any temptation to use people, coerce people or try to manipulate people for your own selfish interests.

The Holy Spirit can help us build respect when you make it known that we will not be manipulated. We must learn to have the courage to stand up to people who abuse their power and create chaos by manipulating the rest of us. Paul refused to be manipulated by the Galatians, the Pharisees and the powerful men of his day with Christ’s courage.

The Holy Spirit can help us build respect by excelling and surpassing lowered expectations in our relationships and ministries. Peter, James and John were respected because of their excellent rapport with others and their effective ministry skills. Luke wrote, "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled because they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13) Ask God for help to shine in your relationships and ministries with the power of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit can help us build respect by the revelation and manifestation of the fruits of our ministries and our relationships. Jesus said, "You will know a man by his fruit." (Matt. 12:33) We should ask the Lord to help us manifest a lot of ministry and relational fruit so that people will respect us for what the Lord has done in, through and for us.

We build up respect when we show respect to others. Jesus said, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31) Ask God to help you to show respect to others in obedience to the Lord.

We earn and learn respect when other speaks to us in confidence, and we keep it those conversations confidential.

We must learn to speak the truth in love. Our goal must be to assure people that we care for them and encourage them to voice their concerns objectively. This is also difficult. But we must ask God for help in giving others an honest answer without misrepresenting the truth or breaking any confidence with people.

The Holy Spirit can help us build respect as we pray for one another and communicate with them about shared goals for Christ’s purposes. We must ask the Holy Spirit for help in respecting each others’ efforts to help build Christ’s kingdom and righteousness in a variety of ways and with many perspectives.

We must share our talents and come to common understanding to move forward in building up God's Kingdom. After all, it is for Him, and not ourselves that we work...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God has got to uncover some Christians / Sermon Notes 3-26-11

God has got to uncover some Christians

Sermon Notes 3-26-11

Text- Mark 7:2-7

This amazing and awesome ext reveals the work of the Master, Christ.

How does His message have meaning today?

We can see the application of Jesus in the activity of Jesus; Jesus walked His talk.

We find Jesus in northern Jerusalem, and through His ministry He has gained some notoriety and has come to the attention of the Pharisees.

Famous people can attract some infamous things.

The Pharisees are focused on finding Him in a futile attempt at frustrating His followers.

There is contention between the now famous Jesus and the infamous Pharisees, and we can see the work of Christ being accomplished through the Word of God.

The Pharisees are antagonists of Jesus.

As we see in literature, an antagonist is someone who works against the main character. In Shakespeare’s Othello, we have Iago, Ulysses Hector, and Beowulf Grendel.

We must learn not to hate our haters, let our haters become our elevators.

Antagonists always uncover something about the main character that was not known before.

You cannot rise unless you have some haters in your life. They will uncover something about you that you never knew about yourself.

The Pharisees are out of their jurisdiction. They have traveled 75 miles from Jerusalem to focus on Jesus and to bring Him down.

We must learn to pray for those around us because the enemy may attack our followers first, to reach us.

We must place our hope in the Lord; God is not through with us yet. He is just getting started.

The Pharisees catch up with His followers first, so they examine them.

Before the enemy can pull down the pastor, he may work to pull down the associates, deacons, trustees or the ushers. So that by the time the pastor enters into the mix, there is confusion, which can distract us when we need to be concentrating on the enemy.

The enemy is trying to pull down the saints on his way to pull down the Savior.

What’s the lesson? Watch your “head!”

The Pharisees argued with the disciples, saying that they were not following the “old elders,” meaning the old tradition, the law. They were attempting to blame the coach for the conduct of the players.

They are attacking the disciples (and Christ) because they were winning.

We do what we do to win over the lost for Christ! And, whenever we win for God, we will attract the attention of the enemy.

What is a Christian’s definition of winning? To bring souls to the Savior, help to the helpless, calling out the lost and letting them know that Jesus is still real.

We are attempting to build a winning tradition, not continue in the old.

Your pastor is your covering. The duty of the pastorate is not about hiding you, concealing you or shining in front of you.

The duty of the pastor is to build up new leaders and let them lead and go forward! The pastor’s job is to stand in the background and send out the saints.

Illustration: Moses. As he grew tired he had Aaron and Joshua standing on either side of his holding up his arms. Whenever Moses’ arms were lifted, the Israelites were victorious in battle.

Does anyone want to be a winner, an overcomer, be victorious?

The losers have to leave so that the winners can stand up and be counted.

“I’m a winner!”

The pastor is called to be your covering.

The Hebrew concept for covering is found in the word “sakak.” It means to spread around liberally, as in fertilizing a garden. It means to show off with grandeur and praise.

Illustration: moles in the garden. We build a fence around the garden to keep away the moles, but also to protect and show off the flowers.

The pastor is called to reveal, uncover and show off. He is committed and concerned that Christ is on your side. And as your coach, it is the pastor’s job to get you into game shape.

God wants to uncover some new Christians who want to work until the work is done.

Biblical illustrations of uncovering: a) Job uncovered by God, ”consider my servant, Job,” b)Joseph uncovered form the cistern, c) Jesus uncovered from Egypt, d) Paul and Silas, uncovered from prison…

Are you willing to be a witness?

Are you willing to work for the Lord?

Are you willing to win for the Savior?

The Pharisees used the old ways and traditions to cover their deeds.

There are many within the church who know just enough of the Word of God to cover themselves and to keep from being found out.

Let the light from the lighthouse shine. Be ready to shine for Jesus.

Illustration: Will Smith, “old busted, new hotness”

Illustration: The US Treasury destroys old, dirty money and distributes new money.

Be brand new.

Do a new thing.

Be new wine.

Let Christ move through you and in you.

“I am an overcomer. I am victorious through Him.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In the end, something got started / Sermon Notes 3-27-11

Text: Deuteronomy 33:1-4

The children of God are moving out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

They are preparing to enter into a land "flowing with milk and honey."

But, before they inherit, they must overcome the obstacles of the past, and come to terms with Moses' place and setting in life.

In the end, something got started. This is not a sad ending, but a joyful beginning.

We frequently look at the end as a fearful thing- end of life, end of a job, end of educational experience...

If you're going to have a beginning, you must have an end.

Let us examine what God can teach us to positions at the end of something and the beginning of something new...

Some people look at Moses' life as a failure because he did not enter the Promised Land. They feel that Moses can't go in because of sin that was in his life.

That leaves us with a question. Did Moses' sin keep him from entering the Promised Land.

Let us look at the end of Moses' life.

His ending is connected to his beginning. The sin in his life did not deter him from the direction God has placed on his life.

His sin did not disqualify him from God's service.

His killing of the Egyptian didn't stop him.

Sin does not disqualify us from our duty and direction for the Lord. We are under his divine direction.

Sin is an undeniable fact of living. Sin will get "on" you as you journey through life. Getting dirt on your shoes is part of the duty.

Temporary sorrow does not keep us from enjoying.

A few roadblocks should not stop us from continuing on to where God is leading us.

Just because you've scraped your knee does not mean that you can't get back into the game.

Only in your determination to keep going forward, will you find your destiny in God.

Sin is a hurdle to overcome on the highway to heaven.

We have too much living to do to worry about death.

Sin can be cleared, overcome.

Sin causes us to stumble. But, stumbling doesn't keep us from staying in the race.

Moses did not allow sin to separate him from his assignment.

There is a difference between sinning and quitting. All of us are sinners. Hopefully, few of us are quitters.

"Your mess does not disqualify you from being blessed!"

Yes, Moses sinned and he struck the rock in anger.

But to all you sin pickers and garbage-getters: Stop picking through other people's garbage to disqualify them and make sure that your is getting picked up / cleaned up! [great!]

Moses looked at sin in the rearview mirror and kept moving forward.


1) Separates us from God.

- It makes a space between us and the Divine

- God can reach across this chasm and chaos, reach beyond your failings and frustrations to lift you up.

- God is a lifter of downtrodden head

- He is able to pick me up

- We must be willing to press on

2) Slows us down

- Moses continued the journey even in the midst of his failings

- Faith fights for the future, it does not fail in the midst of adversity

- Paul says that he fought the good fight.

- We are to continue to fight for faith

- You must not give up on God, He will not give up on you!

3) Tries to belittle us

- You are not the sum of your sins

- It is the Christ in us that we must focus on

- Moses stayed large in his own mind

- We must stop looking at ourselves the way others see us. They will try to put us into a very small box.

- God is able to lift us up.

I am standing on a pile of mess, but this does not disqualify me from standing with the Savior, who is working on my stuff.

I am standing on a mountain of sin, but I am also standing on the Rock....

And His name is Jesus.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pole dancing for Jesus

I am sure this is a good exercise routine. What do you think? Can we get a class started at church? Who is going to teach it?

I don't understand where Jesus fits in. Maybe because they do it on Sunday after church?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why we stay stuck (Part 4 / Conclusion)

Part 4 John 5:2-9 (Conclusion)

What did Jesus ask? Let's look at verse six in its entirety now: "When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

Over the last few days we have talked about the fact that there are a lot of people don’t really want to be healed; they don’t really want to be made whole.

Saying “yes” to Jesus’ question means two things. First we must admit that we are hurting. Some of us, if Jesus were to walk up to us right now and ask, "Do you want to get well?" We would probably say, “What do you mean, Lord? I’m fine, really. Don’t worry about me; go help my friend, he’s the one with problems.” "Do you want to get well?" If you do, it means admitting you’re hurt to yourself, to God, and maybe even to a few trusted friends.

But that’s not all. Saying “yes” to Jesus’ question also means that we must choose healing over hurt. When Jesus asked, "Do you want to get well?" it isn't a rhetorical question, nor was he being flippant. But some of us choose to hold on to our hurts, because we would rather complain. We’re not done seething in anger at those who hurt us, because we know it’ll take work to get better, and besides, we kind of enjoy the sympathy we get, or the attention, or the feeling of playing the martyr.

But He keeps asking, "Do you want to get well?" If you do, then there's one more gem to be mined from this short passage. And that is, what Jesus said. Look at verse 7. After Jesus asked the crippled man by the pool, "Do you want to get well?": "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

Let's look at what he’s really saying about the depth of his hurt? He’s saying, “I’m not only crippled, but (a) I am friendless, I have no one to help me, (b) I am flailing, straining and struggling and its tough, and (c) I am frustrated because someone else goes down ahead of me.

Isn't that how we sound in the middle of our hurts? We feel friendless, flailing and frustrated? But it’s what happens next. In verses 8 and 9:“ Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Jesus apparently didn’t touch the man, or even point to him. He said, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." John doesn’t tell us whether it was Jesus’ words, or a wave or just his will that healed the man. But it’s clear that Jesus had the power to heal him, and he did. Jesus told a man who couldn’t even drag himself into the pool to get up. And the man did! Why? How? I believe it’s because, for some reason, this man believed that Jesus could heal him. And I also believe that there are hurting people who need to believe that Jesus can heal them too.

The Bible says, He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). And, this is what the high and lofty One says-- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

God is able and willing to heal your hurts, and I believe he is saying to you this morning, “I am with you. I want to revive your spirit and restore your heart.” Jesus said to the man by the Pool of Bethesda, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." In other words, I think God is saying to many of us, “It’s time to leave your hurt behind. Pick up your mat and walk. Choose healing over hurt. Take the first step.”

So why do you (we) get stuck and stay there? I am told that Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Therefore, like the pool guy, we must be insane. How many times have you done something that either didn't (never) work out or you knew was going to be detrimental to you? Three or four times? Three or four years? How much of your life have you wasted sitting by the pool, waiting for your luck to change while the whole world passes you by?

Sadly, most of us stay stuck because we choose. We don't like what we are getting, but we are too ____________________ (stubborn, lazy, stupid, comfortable, you can fill in your own favorite time-worn excuse) to do something radically different. We too often find a sad kind of comfort in the familiarity of our circumstances, no matter how painful they may be.

My hope and prayer is that the next time you find yourself on that familiar path, you will stop and ask yourself, “What am I hoping to accomplish by doing this?" One of two things will happen:

a) You will choose the same path, the same plan, the same person, but this time should own up to it, or

b) You will laugh at your foolishness, say "What was I thinking?" and turn a different way.

And if you choose plan "B" you can reclaim your life, rather than going through the motions of merely existing. You can go where you want with a purpose.

You can pick up you mat and walk.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why we stay stuck (Part 3)

Part 3 John 5:2-9

I don’t know what your predicament is, but I do know that God can work change in the midst of it. And even if God does not intervene in exactly the way we might wish, even in those situations that he allows us to struggle though, he gives us the grace to deal with the situation. Paul says that he prayed three times that his particular ailment might be taken away. And God did not grant that request. But what Paul finally says is that he was granted an even greater blessing by receiving grace to deal with his situation to God’s glory.

God may not change some of our situations, but he can and will change our rut. He can and will deliver us to a place where even if we are in the same situation, we will not be in the same place.

He will use all that he allows to come to pass to his glory if we yield ourselves to him. Real change is possible with the God who holds everything in his hands!

So, what is the comfortable predicament that we find ourselves in today? I think for each of us there is a situation or two that we say we want to change, but we really don’t. Perhaps it is because we kind of like our rut and fear the change that it might bring to get out of it. Perhaps we simply think it’s hopeless and we doubt that God could do anything about it, anyway. In either case, God is ready and willing to intervene.

Our man back at the pool never really responded to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to get well?” Jesus simply takes command of the situation and tells him to get up and walk. As Lord of the universe, he really doesn’t need to ask our permission to change our lives. These things are done for His glory, and for our benefit. Jesus merely commands him to get up and walk.

He tells him to do something that is impossible. Paralyzed men cannot walk any more than spiritually blind men can see truth. But Jesus is always commanding us to do the impossible and then, making those things possible.

That leads us back to our question, "Do you want to get well?" It’s a fair question for him and for all of us.

There are three things that we should notice about what took place at the Pool of Bethesda. They are what Jesus saw, what Jesus asked, and what Jesus said.

What Jesus saw: If we look at verse 1, we see that John describes Jesus going up to Jerusalem for one of the many feasts in the Jewish calendar. And in verse 2, John tells us about the pool of Bethesda. It was there, at the Pool of Bethesda that Jesus encountered our main character, who had been an invalid for 38 years. This means that this man had needed healing since before Jesus was born! John then tells us in verse 3: Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed.

But it’s the first part of verse 6 that I want to draw your attention to. Here it tells us what Jesus saw: Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time. This hurting man was surrounded by “a great number” of people and yet, Jesus saw him lying there.

What was true that day beside the Pool of Bethesda is still true today. To anyone who is hurting, remember that you are not alone. It’s not just you. There are “a great number” of hurting people all around you right now. If you were to take a good look around you, you would see “a great number of disabled people,” hurting people, people who don’t have it all together, people with scars, people with wounds so deep and some so incredibly sore that it only takes a word or a look to open the scab, and create fresh hurt.

But, Jesus saw him lying there. Jesus sees us. He is not oblivious to our pain, to our hurt, or to our needs. Just as he saw that man and learned that he’d been there for a long time. And he knows just how long, how much and how deeply we've been hurting, too.

A lot of us Christians fail to do what Jesus did by the Pool of Bethesda; we fail to acknowledge the reality of people’s pain. We avoid the subject because it makes us uncomfortable or we communicate to people, “You’re not supposed to hurt. If you were a real Christian, if you were truly spiritual, you wouldn’t feel this way.” Or we offer superficial answers to deep hurts, saying, “Just pray. Have more faith. Let go and let God.” Do we think people are stupid? Jesus didn’t do that.

Jesus saw him lying there, and that's important. Jesus saw the man’s hurt and knew that it was real, and it had been real for a long time. And of course you’ll ask, “What about all those other people at the pool? The Bible says, there were a “great number” of them. Did Jesus pass them by?” I have no idea. Maybe he healed others whose stories have not been preserved for us. John says about 15 chapters later that Jesus did many other miraculous signs, which are not recorded in this book (John 20:30).

[final installment tomorrow]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why we stay stuck (part 2)

Part 2 John 5:2-9

What about the second kind of person? What about the person who does not want to change? I don't think this is an unreasonable thing to think about this man. He must have been adequately cared for, or he wouldn’t have survived this long. He probably had a few friends who stopped by, although, obviously, not at the right time. He has become accustomed to this way of living. He is surrounded by other people who were hopeless. sick, infirm and lame.

We have all found ourselves in situations where we become either become resigned to our fate, or accustomed enough to it to resist making any changes.

I recently read a study called “Change or Die”. The study followed several thousand people who had been told by their doctors that they must change their health habits or die. People with health issues serious enough that they were facing death, but with issues that were changeable or correctable. They were faced with issues like stopping smoking, stopping drinking, reducing stress, or losing weight. Faced with the choice to “change or die,” what percentage do you think changed their behavior and continued in a new pattern after one year? Nine percent. That’s less than one in ten. Nine out of ten people would rather die than change.

Sadly, I don't find this surprising. But, it begs to question, why would people cling so tenaciously to behavior that they knew would kill them? Perhaps for the same reasons the man at the pool, stays at the pool. He doesn't really want to get well.

If we decide we want to change, we know that there will be implications. And we don’t have a clear picture of what life might be like if we do change. Even if the alternative is a positive one, change can be hard to think about. We get used to our rut. Even if our rut is difficult, it is OUR rut. Sometimes, many times it just feels easier to stay put.

I can imagine that after 38 years our guy at the pool may have made the decision that this is as good as it will get. If he got into the pool and was healed, he’d have to get a job. He might even have to leave his friends behind. After all, if you are healthy and employed, then you can’t hang out at a pool all day. So, while his situation was unfortunate, he may have rationalized his way into thinking that it could be better than the alternative, being whole again.

For those who don’t know Christ, and for some who do, I wonder if they ever have a clear picture of what life can really be like. I’ve known many people who are not satisfied with life, but really have no desire to change. What if they really believed that life could be much better?

Jesus promised that we could have abundant life. Paul said in 1Corinthians 2 that. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Only God can break in and allow people to see what they can and should be. And you and I must faithfully testify in word and deed to that reality so that people can actually see the alternative for themselves! Many people think that if they follow Christ they’re simply trading one bad rut for another. And, where do you suppose they get the idea that following Christ is a joyless life? From us, of course. You know, if you are telling people by what you say or what you do that following Jesus is a bitter, dutiful distasteful existence, then I’d like to suggest that you take a good look at what you’re calling the Christian Life? It really ought to be a life of joy, of peace, and of satisfaction.

That doesn’t mean it is without difficulty. Christians have just as much trouble as anyone else in this world. But Jesus told us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. And he promises to be there with us in the midst of trouble and to help us to make some sense of it. If your words or your life communicate anything other than the fact that following Christ is ultimately an abundant, victorious and freeing lifestyle, then you should do the Kingdom a favor and stop following Christ and giving him bad press! But, don’t sugar coat it either! We will still experience problems and we should not paint a picture of a life with no problems and no pain.

There is another reason I think people who want to change, but don't. They don’t really believe they can change. After all, if you think it’s hopeless, why try? Why on earth would any situation be hopeless? We worship the God of the Universe, who holds everything and every situation in His hands. God can and does change hearts. And God can and does deliver us from our predicaments, no matter how bad or how deep.

Back to our story: We know that Jesus healed many people in response to their faith. He healed many people because they sought Him out and had faith. But our main character was not like this at all. He didn’t find Jesus, Jesus found him. This is a great picture of the grace of God. He finds us and he desires to change us, even if we don’t have the faith to believe that this can happen.

[more to come...]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why we stay stuck (Part 1)

Our text is John 5:2-9

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now, there is in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda…and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there, had been an invalid for 38 years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."

At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. "

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you thought was absolutely hopeless? It may have been a physical, emotional or financial problem. What was your reaction? Did you dig a little deeper and try to work harder, or did you simply give up? How we react, says a great deal about our personality, and even more about our faith and our view of God.
Picture the scene, there are sick people laying all around. Tradition tells us that an angel would come down from time to time, stir the waters and the first person who could get down into the water would be healed of whatever their ailment was. And, we meet our main character who has been there for 38 years. If you think about this, 38 years is a long time to be doing anything.

Jesus comes into the picture and surveys the situation. By whatever means, He is aware of how long this guy has been there, but rather than healing him, he asks him a question…"Do you want to get well?” What kind of question is this? Of course he wants to be healed. After all, he is lying beside a pool that was is supposed to heal people.

Perhaps. But Jesus has asked this specific question for a reason. On the surface it may seem like a silly question, but there are some issues that we need to look at more deeply...

This guy is an example of 2 different kinds of people. One, is the person who wants things to be different, but is investing in the wrong hope. The second is the person who finds themselves in a predicament and decides that they don’t really want to change.

If we assume that our friend at the pool really does want his situation to change, what plan has he made to make this happen? He starts to explain to Jesus that nobody will help him to get into the water when it’s stirred up. Someone else always gets there first. That is indeed unfortunate.

Let's examine this plan. He’s at a pool which is supposed to have the answer to his problem, but it is also the answer to everyone else’s problem. And, there are probably at least a few other people who are strong enough to get in first. Yet, he remains, with no other plan. For 38 years. How many years do you think it would it take for you to figure out that this is a bad plan? Maybe a bit less than 38? So that leaves this man with no real hope and no real plan to change is condition. His situation is not ever going to change just by hanging around the pool. But still he stays. Presumably because he can't come up with a better plan. This is a good picture of people without spiritual hope.

We see this every day in our family and friends, and, sometimes ourselves. This man trusted in a rumor about a pool and in invisible friends who would put him in when the water was stirred. How many of us continue to trust in things that are doomed to fail? He was trusting in “if only” and so are people today. He trusted that “if only someone would help me”.

Think back to when we were teenagers…“If only I can make that team.” “If only I can get into the right college.” “If only I could date him or her.” Then my life would be better.

But trusting in “if only” is a pointless exercise because whatever we put in the space after “if only” is something that does not really change who and what we are fundamentally.

As teenagers we tend to be easy targets. But there is something wrong with us if we continue to do the same thing as adults. “If only I had that house/car/boat/furniture….That thing…” “If only I had ‘x’ dollars saved for retirement or ‘y’ dollars in my portfolio, I’d be ok.” If only I could find the right person to marry, or get out of the marriage I’m in, or get through my kids teenage years with my sanity…” You get the general idea.

St. Augustine said, “All hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” And, Pascal said, "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus".

Anything else that we depend on, anything that we trust in beside the Lord who created us will lead to disappointment. Trusting in anything other than Christ is vanity and futility, because only Christ can give rest to a human heart, and this is because only Christ created human hearts.

It stands to reason that our only real hope is to turn to the One who created us to find a proper understanding of how life is supposed to operate. It’s easy for us to point a finger at someone else who isn't following Christ, as if they are the only ones investing in the wrong things. But, what about us? What do we really trust in for our own satisfaction?

If we were really honest with ourselves, I think our list wouldn't look significantly different than the list of those we’d write off as non-believers. We still get caught up in the same trap of trusting in vain and futile things, don’t we? Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

So...."Do you want to get well?" Do you want to get well? Or do you just want to continue to trust in the things you have been trusting in, the things that will never satisfy you.

It’s a fair question!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Before the Promise, Sermon notes 3-20-11

Text: Numbers 32:5-9

We are at the end of the children of Israel's 40 year journey in the wilderness.

In their exodus, God has them pause to examine themselves.

The first generation that left Egypt has died off, because of their unbelief.

The children endured famine, and God supplied quail. They gorged themselves on the quail, and God had to remind them that He is not only the God of the feast, but also of the famine.

Be careful not to waste all your living, in excess.

Before the Promise, there is always a test, a tribulation and a trial.

The children even tried to back away from God. When Moses went to Mt. Sinai to commune with God and receive His laws, the people decided to party-on since God had forgotten about them.

Even though the struggle of your trial and the test of your faith has become difficult, just hold on to God.

Here, the children face one last trial as they ask the question, "How shall we possess the blessing?"

God's blessings come out of His grace. And what is grace? The unmerited favor bestowed on us because He loves us so much.

Just as with the current crisis in Japan, we question the validity of God in the light of our current circumstances. Why does He allow suffering?

Just because you are struggling now, does not mean that you will struggle always.

We must summon the faith to make it to tomorrow.

We must remember that God loves us in our ugliness, shame, filth, frailty, limits and in our less.

We need the love of God most when we are at our bottom.

Grace moves God's love into action. Goodness travels on grace's highway.

Some of us do not try to secure God's blessings because we feel that we do not deserve it.

At those times we want to rely on God's "common" graces; on the grace that He gives to all people.

[We become fatalistic] We say, "If God wills it, it will happen," rather than asking for His blessing in our prayer life.

The enemy keeps us bound up. He accuses us before God and before the brethren. He tells us that we do not deserve God's love.

We don't want to position ourselves only for God's leftovers. We want to be in a position to receive God's best!

"I deserve God's best blessing!"

God can be moved by your condition.

It matters whether we perceive God as a mountain of granite or a mountain of grace.

We must climb to that mountaintop to get God's blessings.

The God of the Old Testament is a God of cooperation. He'll work with you if you work with Him.

In the text, we have the Twelve Tribes of Israel. All 12 tribes did NOT go into the Promised Land. Moses becomes upset with the people and begins to pronounce woes on them.

They have corrupted the blessing Of the Almighty God. He feels they have become like the first generation that left Egypt who did not truly believe that God would bless them. The Lord's anger mirrors Moses'.

The Lord says, "They have not wholly followed Me."

Two of the tribes want to get their blessing beforehand!

But God gives a counteroffer. Before you get your promise, you must help your brothers first.

It's not all about you.

Are you willing to help someone else secure their blessing before you get yours?

"If there is anything I can do to help you get your blessing, I'll be there for you."

They begin to work for the blessings of other people, and the Lord's anger turned to favor. God blessed them because of their willingness to help others.

If you're willing to help someone else, God will look in on your "stuff."

Illustration: The Smile-Smile taxi company in Japan.

Here is the link -  http://marketplace.publicradio.org/standard/display/slideshow.php?ftr_id=90144

Will you help someone else while your own life is in shambles?

God is a movable mountain of grace.

Illustration- Drake- Yoda Yoda Best, LORD; Best I ever had, LORD!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Skinny on Fasting

It's been a long week. Let's lighten up a little...

I love these guys!

Dieting? Tech fast? Fasting makes me hungry? The Pharisee?

What about fasting?

The Scripture does not command us to fast. God does not require it of Christians. At the same time, the Bible does present fasting as something that is good, profitable, and valuable. The book of Acts reports believers who fasted before making important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23).

All too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. However, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. It also helps us focus off ourselves and on to those who are much less fortunate than we are. We forget that there are people throughout the world, and in our own neighborhoods and cities, who can’t make a choice about whether they should eat or not; there is no food available to them.

Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast, as demonstrated by the techy guy in the video. Anything that we can give up on a temporary basis in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect our attention to God.

Fasting should not be considered a “dieting method.” The function of a biblical fast is not to lose weight, but instead to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can be more successful in turning our attention to Christ.

Fasting should not be considered a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God.

Fasting is not a way to look more spiritual than your associates. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Matthew 6:16-18 says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Fasting, like many other things in our lives is meant to be a covenantal and special relationship between us and God. We are meant to be changed internally by these actions.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What does God want from us? (Micah 6:8) Part 4 / Conclusion

Today, we will finish this 4-part series about Micah and “What does the Lord require of you?


A. He wants us to not forget Him…!

Deuteronomy 8:11-14,17 – "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today,

"...lest; when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them;

"...and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied;

"...when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage....

then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'"

B. He wants us to listen to Him…!

Matthew 4:4- "But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'""


That fact has always amazed me, and I don’t think I am alone in my amazement. Why would an omnipotent God want a puny human's love?

Psalms 8:3-5- "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and

He wants our undivided, unreserved love!

Deuteronomy 6:5- "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."

Matthew 22:37- "Jesus said to him,” 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'"


An obedience that grows naturally from our love.

Psalms 51:16-19- "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart; These, O God, You will not despise...

Love is the underpinning for obedience.

Mark 12:33- "And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.""


God should control our lives.

Galatians 2:20- "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

Colossians 3:1-4- "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are …where?…above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."

God does not want an on again, off again, relationship. God does not want a some sort of wise, warm, and fuzzy relationship...

He wants all of you. And what is the practical expression of this?

How do we do this?

Ephesians 4:22-24- "that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."

Philippians 3:13-14- "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

I continue to press on toward the goal…


Surrounded by angels, He wants you there with Him. Once again, I am awe-struck by this, but the testimony of scripture supports it...

Look at what God has for us.

John 14:1-4- "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way."

Note, though, this homecoming is for people who have responded to what God wants from them!

In Revelation 14:12-13- we see "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.""

The question that you need to ask yourself is this: “Am I walking humbly with my God?”

Maybe the best answer you can come up with right now is, "No, because you don’t have a relationship with God."

Perhaps you have never begun a walk with Him. Maybe you aren’t currently walking with Him. Perhaps you used to walk with God, but you have tried to do your own thing and walk on your own, your own way.

Maybe your answer is, “No, because my walk isn't all that humble." You may chafe at the thought of submitting to His will and His direction for your daily life, and you aren’t recognizing His position as sovereign Lord of your life. Perhaps you are too self-absorbed to see the needs of those around you.

I don’t know how you are doing with these "simple," painfully obvious, and easily overlooked things about our relationship with God, but perhaps you're beginning to think you need to change some things.

Well, this is the time, this is the dance, and there is no time like the present.

You can change whatever needs to be chaged in your life so that you will be abe to say, "Yes, I am walking humbly with my God!"

Justice, kindness and humility. Not a bad three words for the day...


Thursday, March 17, 2011

What does God want from us? (Micah 6:8) Part 3

Part 3-“What does the Lord require of you?

When we understand the messages of the prophet Micah, we realize that Jesus didn’t just make all this stuff up as He went along. He stood in the long line of Hebrew prophets who called their people to "walk humbly" with their God.

“What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

The God whom Jesus called “Abba,” “Father,” has the same expectations of us that God had of the Hebrew people in Micah’s day. As Christians who have received the gracious gift of God’s love, we too have been delivered from slavery, from bondage to all that could have kept us from living as Jesus lived and loving as Jesus loved.

And if Micah were here today, I think he would ask us if we have forgotten our covenant with God.

I think Micah might say to us: You have been delivered from slavery and arrived in your version of the promised land. You enjoy a life of freedom and the abundance of the land, but you have forgotten God and your relationship with God and you have forgotten what you need to do to maintain that relationship.

As He said to the Hebrews, God says, “When you are free and safe and fat and happy, remember me.”

And like the Hebrew people, we would protest. We’d probably say something like, “Gee whiz God, I go to church every Sunday. I support my church’s ministry. What more do you want from me?”

And then we are reminded of Micah, who would say, “What does the Lord require of you?” And you would now have to answer: “To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

He would say, “It doesn’t matter where you are on Sundays, if you are not walking humbly with your God on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday. And we might even counter, “But God, we live in a Christian nation. Our leader is compassionate. We boldly proclaim our Christianity to all the world.”

And Micah might come back saying, “It doesn’t matter if you post the Ten Commandments on all your public buildings if only the rich can afford justice in your courts. It doesn’t matter that you stand up for prayer in schools, if you deny poor children the health-care that all children should have access to.

It doesn’t matter if you are pro-life and demand that no fetus ever be aborted, if you refuse to provide the resources and the tax dollars, to keep them fed, and healthy and educated once they get here.

It doesn’t matter that you shout loudly when somebody wants to take “In God We Trust” off your currency, if your whole life is consumed with consuming and acquiring, with buying the things that those dollars can get for you!"

“What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

What must we do to walk humbly with our God? What does that mean in practical every day terms?

We must be vigilant in our personal and political lives to make sure that every child of God is treated equally and fairly.

We must be certain that no child of God is left behind in slavery to the forces of greed.

We must live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved.

“What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

Jesus said it this way in John 13:34-35 (from the NIV translation)

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

And how do we love one another? We do justice, we love kindness and we walk humbly with our God.

Is the stuff of justice, and kindness, and walking with God important enough to alter our walk? Is it important enough to alter the way we live?

[ more later...]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rob Bell and the Fighting Christians [Take 2]

Sounds like a new boy-band, doesn't it? But sadly, it isn't. For not the first time, I am ashamed and embarrassed by those who call themselves leaders of the church. Many powerful Christian leaders have weighed in already to tell us what we should think of Rob and his new book, which hasn't been released, yet.

Who are these powerful Christian leaders, and isn't that almost an oxymoron? Where does their fame emanate from? Fame and fortune or from Christ?

We will never all agree on everything, but this public ugliness and bickering expose us for the frauds we are. Where is our love, patience, discernment? Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, Andy Stanly, Eddie Long, TD Jakes, or whoever your personal guru is, may all be much more famous and much richer than I will ever be, but they do not know everything. And, as public figures, they make mockery of the peace that we all claim to possess.

The leader of my faith and my church is Christ. Certainly I have a pastor, who I hold in the highest regard; but we aren't Old Testament people who only have access to our Father through an intermediary priest. The destiny of my soul, working on and out my salvation is not dependent upon my Pastor's intercession (although it can't hurt), or even his interest in my final outcome. I have to put in the work myself. Who is the Captain of my soul?

It would be pleasant to think that this debate will cause people to examine their faith, and some will. Most won't. They will sit on the sidelines, spout the opinions of other and allow these others to continue to drag them around by the nose; telling them what to think and how to feel.

One of the most pressing thoughts I have had in this pre-release debacle hasn't really been about universalism, per se, and we will come back to this and other terms, but...

Have we become such inward and selfish thinkers, so insular in our faith thought processes, that we not only cast aside the "outsiders," the "others", but also cast aside and make pariahs of our children and all the other Christians who do not think exactly as we do? Rob has been a fair-haired poster boy for the Evangelicals, and it is amazing how easily they now write articles with titles such as, "Good-Bye Rob Bell."

My children do not believe as I do. I do not believe as my mother did. So do I throw out all of the things she tried to instilled me? I have many friends and relatives who practice other forms of Protestantism. Do I stay away from them so that my thinking isn't contaminated? Do I avoid family functions, because some of that other stuff might rub off on my pristine soul? Are my faith and understanding so fragile that I cannot it expose it to the light of day, nor stand firm under critical review?

Clearly the answer is, "No!" As Paul has said, "test it all".

Yes, we must make clear lines in the sand for what we believe and what we accept as true. However, I cannot make that decision based on someone else's thoughts. Being faithful is not meant to make us stupid.

What's next, book burning?

Does Rob have some views that I don't and won't agree with? Certainly. Does he have views that resonate with me? Of course. But I won't know that unless I invest the time to find out what he's saying.

[more to come, I'm sure...]

What does God want from us? (Micah 6:8) Part 2

Part 2- “What does the Lord require of you?"

Micah had a deep sensitivity to the social ills of his day. He spoke with courage about the sins of his day and called for the people and the leaders to return the principles of God. We don't know much about him beyond chapter 1 of his book.

Micah preached during a period in the history of the Hebrew people when things were really going pretty well, both economically and politically. This is a period when they had forgotten, or at least neglected, their covenant with the One who had delivered them from slavery. Micah condemns the leaders of his people for injustices perpetrated against the poor and powerless. The leaders were complacent and wanted to pretend that nothing is wrong. When Micah confronted the leaders of the nation with these injustices, their response was to change the subject.

They said, “Hey we are good Jews. We go to the temple every Sabbath. We offer sacrifices and we give generously to the temple’s coffers. What does God expect from us anyway?”

And this is where Micah comes in. “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

So our first issue is justice. What did “justice” mean in that context?

The word “justice” means fairness, fair play and evenhandedness within the human family. In the mindset of the Old Testament, to do justice involved the basic needs, requirements, or even the rights of people living together in community. Justice, then, was and is decidedly social in nature. The practice of justice, means to set things right or to fix the imbalances of a society that allows some people to be oppressed to the point that they were deprived of their basic human needs, requirements, and rights. They were deprived of the things that would have allowed them to function as part of the community.

God’s covenant required that the people whom God had delivered from slavery, should never treat others the same way they had been treated in Egypt. To do so would be to violate the very promise that God made to the Hebrew people. Doing justice then, would involve both personal and social responsibilities. It would mean that they (we) never act in ways that might produce injustice.

There are nine words that are most often associated with the word, “justice,” in the Bible. "Widow," "fatherless," "orphans," "poor," "hungry," "stranger," "needy," "weak" and "oppressed."

In this list of words, you do not find the word, “rich.” Indeed, rich is frequently associated with injustice. You don’t have to worry about the rich, because the rich will be able to afford to "buy" justice. We need to worry about the widows, the fatherless, the orphans, the poor, the hungry, the strangers, the needy, the weak and the oppressed. They are still with us!

God requires that we work for fairness for the "little" people of our world. God requires a commitment to the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless in a society where the "little " people have no voice of their own by which they can remedy the injustices that marginalize them as human beings.

Second.....What does “loving kindness” mean in the context of Micah’s message?

This is from a Hebrew term “hesed,” which is roughly translated as “kindness,” and “mercy.”

"Covenant faithfulness," "compassion," "loyal love," "loving devotion," and "steadfast love" are all attempts to translate this term into English. It is often used to describe God’s faithful actions throughout history on behalf of His people. It also means that the people were expected to respond to God with a unwavering loyalty and love that reflected the compassion and grace that God had demonstrated to them.

This word, "hesed," then, is a relationship term. It is not a warm-fuzzy-feeling kind of love, but the commitment and unfaltering dependability that arises from mutual respectful relationship. To love "hesed" was to be committed not only to God who had demonstrated "hesed" to the people, but was also to live in community in such a way that "hesed" marked life together as God’s people.

To love "hesed" was to be committed to a quality of life that was governed by the principles of mutual respect, helpfulness, and loving concern.

Third.....What did Micah mean when he said “walk humbly with your God?”

"Walking a path" is a common biblical metaphor for living a certain kind of life. "Walking humbly with God" is a call to do more than to come to God with offerings thinking that we can buy His favor. It is a call to live our lives with God in ways that would work out in every aspect of life. It implies a sensitivity to the things of God. To allow our hearts to be broken by the things that break the heart of God.

It is a deep desire to see the world through the eyes of God and to act in the world as God would act. When this final requirement is placed alongside the first two, "walking with God" becomes synonymous with having a heart for justice and compassion. In this sequence, "walking with God" is actually the overarching category for doing justice and loving "hesed." They cannot be separated, because walking humbly with God, living all of life under God and in relationship to God, will result in both.

How can we walk humbly with God?

I often find it helpful when I’m trying to figure out a biblical metaphor, to look at other places in Scripture which use the same metaphor.

Here are a few:

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1).

“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1st John 1:7).

“Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

“Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2).

If we want to walk with God, then let us walk in these things.

“To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” The God who led the Hebrews out of slavery and into the Promise land requires the people who have been blessed to be a blessing to others.

We are blessed so that we can be a blessing. To walk with that God means to live a life of steadfast love for others, especially those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

[more later...]

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rob Bell and his new book, "Love Wins"

First things first, the book isn't due to be released until March 29, 2011. So much is being made of something that few have actually read for themselves.

Second. Who is Rob Bell? Here is a link that may help:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Bell

Anyone who has read this blog in the past knows that I believe we cannot enter into discussion, let alone have a debate about any idea until we have a working and understandable definition of the terms. We must all be on the same page. So, we will try to cut through some of the emotionally-charged ideas and rhetoric floating around.

Because ultimately, we will have to decide for ourselves what we believe and what we think is right or wrong.

As this story unfolds, we (you, the readers, as well as myself) will all have more to add.

What is Pastor Bell talking about? Well, here are a few terms that we need to start thinking about, and looking for definitions to...

Universalism, Ultimate Reconciliation, Inclusivism, Modern Western Exclusivism, Annihilationism,
Conditional Immortality, Eternal Conscious Torture, Final Judgment, Eternal Judgment.

I know I have quoted this before, but I think the Apostle Paul gives us the best advice for this, "test everything."

"Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)

More later...

That's A Good Question - Forgiving

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Forgiveness":


Posted by Anonymous to Praise In Action at March 8, 2011 4:55 AM

I think, and remember these are my opinions only, that it is hard for us to forgive because it goes against our baser human nature, as well as society’s norms.

We want to get even. We don’t want to let people off the hook. We want them to grovel and give us what is due. Our societal norm is winning, at all and every cost.

But that is not what we should believe, nor what we should be doing.

And, contrary to popular thinking, the Bible does not say that we are to “forgive and forget.” There are however, many scriptures that direct and command us to “forgive one another” [Matthew 6:14, Ephesians 4:32].

If we do not even attempt to forgive, we run the risk of reaping bitterness and the losing our eternal rewards [Hebrews 12:14-5, 2 John 1:8].

Forgiveness is a decision of our will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious effort and choose to forgive.

This frees the forgiving one (you) from the past. If you do not forgive and move on, you make yourself a prisoner to this person, their emotions and the offense.

The offender (them) may not want your forgiveness and may not change [Matthew 5:44]. But that doesn't really matter. Ideally, the offender (them) will seek reconciliation, but if not, the one wronged should still make known his decision to forgive. Forgive, and move on.

In one sense, it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively push the "delete" button and remove events and the subsequent feelings from our memory.

The Bible says that God does not "remember" our wickedness [Hebrews 8:12]. We also know that God is all-knowing, omniscient. He already knows that we have all “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. However, having forgiven us, He alone is capable of treating us as if the sin had not occurred.

If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. In that sense we must "forgive and forget." If we forgive someone, we must act as if that sin had never occurred.

We are human, so we will remember the sin, but we are to live as if we do not remember it. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

But as I said in the original post, I don’t think Christ is commanding us to be anyone’s doormat or whipping-boy.

There is a quote (among many) that hang in my office by Denis Watley- “Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.”

If there is no change in your relationship after you have made you most heart-felt attempt at forgiveness known, remove yourself from the situation.

Key verse:

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” [Luke 6:35]

As we investigate this passage [Luke 6:27-36], we find Jesus teaching on how far our love must reach. It does not just stop with our friends. He says that it must extend to our enemies as well. We cannot just give our kindness to those who are first kind to us. Jesus points out that even the worst people of the world do that. To be different as Christ’s followers, and children who live in the light, we must love those who do not love us and may even be downright mean to us. In fact, we must do good to them, even though they will most likely never return the favor. Jesus drives home the point that even those perceived as the lowest by the world show favor to those who will return that favor. God showed a different love. God showed love to a world that did not deserve it. Christ calls us to imitate that love and mercy by giving our love and grace to those who do not deserve it and who will not repay it or reciprocate it.

You don’t have to angrily avoid the person, but you can be cordial in greeting, and not engage further. I am not talking about being fake or phony. I think it is entirely humanly possible to say good morning to someone that you don’t want to spend the rest of the day with. It costs nothing, and who knows, they may eventually get it.

We are meant to be the lamps and lights to the world around us!
What does that mean in plain English? We are to lead by and be examples of God's love in and to the world. We are the "demo" models. If we don't even try to get it right, what does that say about the God we serve? What does it say about the love we profess? What does it say about us?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sermon Notes 3-13-11

Text: Exodus 4:22-27 (King James Version)

22And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

23And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

24And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.

25Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.

26So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

27And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.

There is no shortcut to salvation. In the text, God comes to check on Moses, and the baby has not been circumcised. As a backdrop, Moses has brought his wife Zipporah out of Midian and she does not know the God of Moses. Moses' intention was to go around what God wants him to do because he is too busy; as we think we are.

We must put some work in with God. How is your prayer life, Bible life, church attendance?

We cannot short-circuit the process.

Before you (Moses) can pronounce judgment on Pharaoh- be sure your house is in order.

Before you begin to quote scriptures to others, be sure you are standing on solid ground.

Remember, judgment begins at the house of the Lord.

Has your life been changed by the Word of God?

What are you doing to continue to do what God has asked you to do?

We must:

1. Learn to be persistent in our faith.

   We must learn to stand on our principles even when they don't look like they are working.

   We must learn to be faithful before our God.

   We must be persistent through our situation and circumstances.

2. Learn to be resistant to the temptation to follow other people.

   We don't know what they have been through to get where they are.

   We don't know what they may have had to compromise.

   Did they make a deal with the Devil?

   Do not cut down on your principles or standards.

   Don't you compromise on your values, because God is looking at you.

  Stand for something that is pure and holy in the eyesight of the Lord.

  Zipporah is being true to who she is, and she still has some wild ways.

  Moses was supposed to uphold the Lord's standards for her.

We must be able to sacrifice something on the altar of sacrifice for the Lord to be pleased with it.

Sacrifice is the price of salvation!

Illustration: Gideon. Get down to the qualified people.

The Lord needs people who are not looking for status or symbols.

Are we willing to put in the work to rebuild the foundation of the church?

We need to be willing to put some skin in the game.

We need more than Sunday-morning kind of faith.

Can you make sacrifices over and above your Sunday-morning visit?

Where is your faith on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday?

Unless you (we) are willing to put some skin in the game, we will never be able to build for the Kingdom.

3. We must learn to exist the way God sees us, as people of faith.

    Faith is a quality that runs through our complete lives.

    Faith moves, shapes and mold us!

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." 1 Corinthians 13:13 (King James Version)

Faith is part of the engine that drives God's people.

This is not a short work, it is lifelong.

Remember, Moses did not make it into the Promised Lane, but he was faithful to his work and his calling.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Peace, a fruit of the Spirit / Matisyahu- One Day

Think of this as an opportunity to broaden your horizons...

Yes, he is an Orthodox Jew, using reggae-style music to spread the message of love and peace. A message that is the property no single religion or denomination. We have to look beyond the things that divide us, and look to that which unifies us. We have but two commands, "love God and love each other".

Are we not ALL looking forward to that "One Day," when peace will reign over our lives and our world?

Peace, a fruit of the Spirit:

The apostle Paul cautioned Christians to "walk in the Spirit" and if we do, then we will "not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16.) So how do we walk in the Spirit? Paul goes on in the next five verses to tell us what the "works of the flesh" are and then he answers the question of how we go about walking in the Spirit when he says: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV.)

Let’s take a look at ‘peace’ which is the third in the list of the fruits of the Spirit.

The Greek word for ‘peace’ in this verse is ‘eirene’ [i-ray'-nay] which means peace, harmony, tranquility, concord, unity, contentment. This Greek word corresponds to the Old Testament Hebrew word ‘shalom’ which means basically the same thing. The words ‘shalom’ and ‘eirene’ were commonly used as greetings. But, peace as a fruit of the Spirit is much more than a greeting. It is a supernatural state of inner tranquility.

But, there are things that can rob us of peace.

When Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, He said: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" [John 8:44]. The Tormentor, Satan, is the wicked one [Matthew 13:19, 38], the ruler of this world [John 12:31], the god of this age [2 Corinthians 4:4] and he has deceived the whole world [Revelation 12:9]. We have been influenced by him to hate, compete, war against and to kill one another.

Sin is one of the things that can rob us of our peace. Isaiah the prophet said: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy. That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear [Isaiah 59:1-2]. Isaiah also records, "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked" [Isaiah 57:21].

When we sin and do something wrong, it produces guilt, which works on multiple levels of our consciousness and can cause mental and physical distress and disease. The road back to peace is to confess our sins with the purpose of abandoning it. The apostle John affirmed: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" [1 John 1:9].

If we sin, our fellowship with God is affected, causing us inner turmoil. We must repent and confess to God in order to get back to a condition of inner peace.

The apostle Paul quoted Isaiah in saying, "The way of peace they have not known" [Romans 3:17]. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says that we are to "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" [Hebrews 12:14]. This is a word of warning: if we don’t strive for peace, then we will not see Jesus when He returns, and we will not rule and reign with Him in the Kingdom of God.

Isaiah recorded a prophecy declaring Jesus would be the Prince of Peace: "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6]. Jesus talked about peace to His disciples on the night of His last Passover before He was crucified saying, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid [John 14:27]. "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" [John 16:33].

The apostle Paul told the brethren in Philippi: "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus [Philippians 4:7].

When I think of ‘peace’, I think of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God [Matthew 5:9]. We can see from this verse that if we want to be a child of God, to be a part of the God Family, then we must be peacemakers. One of the ways that we can be a peacemaker is to keep God’s Commandments. David wrote, "Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble" [Psalms 119:165].

Another way to be a peacemaker is to watch what our tongues, watch what we say. Words can wound and damage people. Arguments and disagreements can spiral into envy, strife, hatred and murder. We need to think of one of Solomon’s proverbs, "A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger [Proverbs 15:1].

To be a peacemaker we need to be humble and meek. Notice that there is a reward for doing this: "But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" [Psalms 37:11]. This is a reference to the coming Kingdom Age in which peace will prevail and they will beat their swords into plowshares and nations will not learn war any more. [Isaiah 2:4].

God’s purpose for mankind is that we enjoy eternal life in peace with Him. God is the author of peace [1 Corinthians 14:33], He has called us to peace [1 Corinthians 7:15] and we are to live in peace [2 Corinthians 13:11]. We need to be peacemakers with our families, fellow churchgoers / members, co-workers and neighbors. We need to go in prayer and ask for the fruit of His Spirit: peace.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why do we go to church?

There is a relatively new phenomenon, called Internet church. For those who are not aware, I am not talking about simply having a website for the church, or even having streaming video to look at the church service when you want.

The concept is that you actually “attend” church over the internet. This is a natural outgrowth of our increasing fascination with the digital world. Before I get started, I am not bashing the concept in total. I have reviewed some of the clips, and the preaching and teaching can be quite good. In the future, if I continue to blog, I may even have occasion to use some of the media clips. And, there are clearly instances when we cannot physically attend church, and this is a good solution in those situations.

The internet church seems like the next step up from TV church. But, probably because of my age I still have a few problems with it.

I can choose to “interact” with the preacher and ministerial staff by posting questions and posting prayer requests. And, while I am certain that it is a human being, it doesn’t have the same flavor as one-on-one human contact, where I can see with facial expressions and feel empathy as I pour out the details of my situation. Once and a while I am asking for help, I need someone who knows me and is willing to say things like, “Wow, I’ve never heard of that, let me see if I can help you with this.” Or someone who will say, “That’s not right, what are you thinking?”

Unlike my real-life pastor, I can yell at and disagree with the preacher and not cause a scene. But am I being taught and am I understanding the Word of God?

And, bonus....I don’t have to send any money, or go to any meetings that make me feel like I am circling a drain. But then, what is it that will bind me to these people? What will keep me connected?

I really enjoy doing stuff on the web; most of it anyway. I am getting the hang of blogging and hope to get better at writing. I get several digital magazines, and I enjoy those, especially because they don’t add clutter to my house. I don’t do facebook; the jury is still out on that for me.

But this new phenomenon leads me to a question, actually three questions...

1. Why do we go to church?

2. Why don’t people go to church?

3. Is church about just getting what we want? Having it our way?

We go to church to get something and to give something. We go to church to praise and worship God. If you look back a few weeks at the sermon notes, we had a two-part sermon on the Body of Christ. We are part of a spiritual community. You are a part of the body of Christ. And, as part of that Body we have responsibilities and we reap benefits.

So…Why do we go?

Attending church is an Expression of our Love for God. "And [they] were continually in the temple praising and blessing God" (Luke 24:53). Going to church is a real expression of our love and worship toward God. It is where we can gather with other believers to bring (to) God offerings of praise, thanks, and honor.

It is a way to build up our Spiritual Strength. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Getting the preaching and teaching of the Word of God increases our faith and builds us up spiritually. Every one of us knows what it means to face conflicts, spiritual and otherwise, and we must understand the importance of being fed spiritually so that they can overcome these challenges. Paul frequently uses the wrestler and wrestling match as metaphor indicating that Christians must fight against the Devil and his evil spiritual forces. He goes further to say that we need to put on our spiritual armor for protection (Eph. 6:10-18). It is important that we take advantage of every opportunity we have to receive ministry and strength from God's Word.

It provides opportunities to fellowship with other Christians. "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The Bible makes it clear that to be in right relationship with God requires a right relationship with other believers. It is not possible to love God and refuse to love our brethren. If you have a problem loving other Christians, then by default, you have a problem in your relationship with God. The scripture warns us that a spirit of unforgiveness toward others will void God's forgiveness of our own sins (Matt. 6:15). John wrote, "He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him" (1 John 2:9-10).

One of the most important reasons that we go to church is to practice love. It is very easy to practice love sitting in your PJs alone in front of a television or computer screen. It is not so easy when we are faced with flesh and blood. It is the work of keeping ourselves in love and harmony with other believers that helps us remain humble before God.

Worship is an act of obedience to God. "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins," (Heb. 10:24-26).

If I can paraphrase, the writer of the Hebrew epistle is telling us to not to stop coming together; and that if we abandon this practice, it can lead to willful sin (verse 26). We're supposed to be considerate of our brethren, and come together to help motivate and encourage one another. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

It allows accountability to spiritual leadership. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Heb. 13:17).

If we are only involved in TV or internet ministry, whose authority do we submit to? The short answer is that we are submissive to and answer to no one other than our own selves. It is easy to see that one cannot genuinely be under submission to a TV / Internet pastor who has never met you. And it is also not possible to be under submission by visiting a different church each week. The Bible tells us to know them that are over us in the Lord (1 Thes. 5:12). The act of being submissive chafes against our usual thinking; it’s uncomfortable in a society where everyone is their own person, and we are all so busy being “all we can be.” Submission necessitates a commitment and relationship to a local body of believers and to their spiritual leaders.

It honors the Lord's Day. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8). The fourth commandment of the law that God gave Moses was to set aside the seventh day of the week, as a holy day to the Lord. We do not all celebrate the same Sabbath day of the week, and that’s okay. The point is that we should be setting aside a day that is at least partially devoted to the Lord, the Lord's Day; a day to fellowship in celebration of the resurrection, to worship, pray and study the Word together.

As adults, we are all feel we are perfect in isolation. There have been numerous studies on newborns that are born very, very small or with “failure to thrive” syndrome. What has been discovered is that in addition to the usual nutrients, human touch is what is required to help these survive.

While I can and do learn many new things over the internet, how and in what setting am I learning to apply them?

People may say that they have good friends and good fellowship via the internet. But I would have to ask, what happens when things aren’t going so well in our lives. Who reaches out to dry our tears, rest a hand on your shoulder, give us a hug, and sit with us in silence waiting for us to speak? Who shares our moments of joy, belly laughing at the ridiculousness of ourselves and others? Who gives us a high five when we feel we done a great job? Who brings out the best, and worst in us? Who cares for us?

Church, like the rest of life is made up of imperfect human beings. We ourselves are not perfect. Almost every interaction in life carries a lesson with it. Sometimes these are painful, most of the time they are not; but we should learn something from them all. Being with people and struggling together to make good and positive things happen is what sharpens us. It makes us better. It makes us useful. And, it hones our hearts and our emotions.