Friday, July 30, 2010

Demonstration of Faith - James 2

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. James 2:19

At one point or another, we have run into someone that says….”yeah, I’m a Christian…I believe in God!” and for most….that is where it ends. I have so much pity for people like this because there is so much more! If pressed….a lot of them will also say…”yes, I even believe in Jesus”….Great! But to historically believe that a man named Jesus walked the earth, was a Jewish carpenter’s son, and did some miracles and died on a cross…still doesn’t constitute salvation, or being a Christ Follower.
“Oh, but I have been baptized” Awesome!

I just want to say…..But you don’t love people, you don’t hurt at injustice, you aren’t moved at the things that hurt God. You flirt with women, you cuss like a sailor, you slander, steal from your work, you don’t care for your family and you drink way to much.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26

But we also know that;
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Absolutely…..not by works (or deeds) are we saved….but works and deeds ARE a demonstration of the faith that saves us.

Guys…this is a tricky verse…because I don’t believe that we are here to challenge and condemn every person who believes they are saved but are not, some maybe. But we can’t be throwing this verse around at them unless you have a platform and the tact to do it. While sharing truth, it is to be done in love….and not condemnation. We may feel the pressure to convert….or to “save” one of our friends, but only God can do that….he may choose to use us, so be ready.
I believe we are to love, instruct, pray for and show true faith, including works.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Joy - James 1

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Wow….this is a tough one. Pure Joy?

When the big trials in life come (and they will), this is when God has an opportunity to see your faith in action. Here is when true believers get to ‘fish or cut bait’. I have handled this both ways…..correctly and incorrectly, and when you have faith, there is joy once through the trial. The joy comes from knowing that you are developing perseverance. Be joyful knowing there is an opportunity to prove God faithful.

Some of us are in the middle of HUGE trials right now. How are you doing? Are you praying, reading God’s word, possibly fasting….seeking God….trusting God?

I asked a friend last night, who is in the middle of a trial…..”are you more close to God now than ever?” and he is…..because he is trusting God, relying on him to sustain him, seeking him, allowing God to work, praying to Him, listening for Him….like never before. And part of the joy is that we get to walk closer to The Eternal King, than we ever have.

Guys….keep an eternal perspective and your thoughts will change. Think of the eternal over the temporal. Think of your relationship with God first….and let everything else fall into place.

I am praying for you guys, your families, your work, your thought life, and your witness. I pray that you are taking your “religion” seriously….and drawing close to God. I pray as men, we are leading our homes, praying with our wives, praying with our kids and leading by example. I pray we take every word captive, love our wives like Christ loved his church….willing to lay his life down for her.

It is a war gentlemen….and Satan is looking to steal, kill and destroy all of us.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Honor Marriage - Hebrews 13

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4


There is so much that this verse encompasses for us men to consider. I bring it up, because I see this recurring theme throughout the bible about sexually immoral and/or adulterer and it’s easy to write off as “someone elses issue”.
Let’s be clear……sexually immoral includes things like;
Pornography
Strip Clubs
“Happy Ending” massages
Eyeing women who aren’t your wife
Making friends look at girls
Coarse sexual joking
Sexual Innuendo
Inappropriate touching
Inappropriate discussions with women
Intimate discussions with women (possibly about her marriage, sex, or feelings)
Phone sex (other than your wife HA!)
900 numbers
Internet Relationships
Emotional affairs


Guys…I’m sure there are tons of others….but I say all this to say, don’t think that because it’s not listed in the bible….it falls into some gray area.
We are to remain true to our wives. Emotional cheating is still cheating and just as painful as the real thing.
Matthew talked about yesterday….that the divorce rate inside the church is the same as it is outside. We are to remain faithful, attentive to our wives, love her as Christ loved the church, make her feel loved, come home in the evenings, be nice (not a douche), buy her stuff, talk with her….really talk with her, plan a getaway, date your wife, pursue her….and ALL your wildest dreams will come true.

Jenny and I have recently gone through a tough period where she made me aware that I had quit doing those things that she loved….and made her feel special. I was so loving my ministry, my job, and my friends….that we had settled for occasional to rare meaningful conversations and “quickies”.

Me becoming aware of this…and not being defensive …has led to us really becoming closer, enjoying each others company more, loving to talk more, increased passion in our marriage and a rejuvenation of a stale sexual life.

I write all this because I honor and value marriage and I have seen too many marriages fail….in and out of church. So men, be on guard…self-controled and alert. Your enemy Satan, prowls around looking for someone (or a marriage) to devour. (somewhere in Peter)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Discipline - Hebrews 12

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Hebrews 12:7-8

Being disciplined is never fun. I remember as a child….after being disciplined, laying in my room afterward ‘hating’ my mom and dad. It wasn’t that I hated them….it was that I hated the necessary process of receiving discipline. I guess part of me still does.

Here, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that feeling we had as children….and to endure it….because it is good to receive discipline. It is a sign of love.

You have to question a parent that NEVER disciplines their child…..allowing them to wreak havoc in their own lives and run wild.

God, thanks for disciplining me….loving me and treating me as a son.....even tho it sucks.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

by Faith - Hebrews 11

By faith _______________(your name) …….

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

As our life stories are written will we be known as men of faith? Are we earnestly seeking Him? What is our faith worth? If you sensed God calling you somewhere….would you go? Are you willing to look foolish…..for your faith?
If your faith turned out for naught, would you have so much invested in it…that you would be pitied? Or have you withheld some dignity?

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 1 Corinthians 15:19

Noah…..built an ark because God told him there would be a flood. Did you know there had never been rain before Noah?

Abraham packed up the family and moved because God told him to…..but he never told him where until after he left.

Abraham had faith that God would bless him and his barren wife Sarah with a child even though they were past child baring years.

Abraham also took his only son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him as God had instructed him, knowing God had promised descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Amazing Grace - Hebrews 10

Wow…okay guys this chapter (like the others) is PACKED, and so much of hitting me between the eyes this morning.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 5:23


As followers of Christ….we must trust the words of Christ, follow the ways of Christ, love like Christ loved, aspire to walk rightly like He did….and repent when we don’t.
If we don’t, what good is our faith.

What is faith?
Hebrews 11 tells us; Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.


This means that although we live in a time when we don’t physically walk with Christ, we cant see him, his miracles, his example….we do have the bible and the testimonies of those who did. We trust the bible to true and the infallible word of God, written by men under the direction of the Holy Spirit…..and we trust that.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24


Hopefully, in my relationship with you guys you sense this with me. I want you love and do good deeds…but not only that. I want us to aspire to righteousness.

My dad used to quote a poem….and although this isn’t biblical….I share it with you as an example:
The Man In The Glass
Anonymous
When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself

And see what that man has to say.


For it isn’t your father or mother or wife

Whose judgment upon you must pass.

The fellow whose verdict counts most in you life

Is the one staring back from the glass.


You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum

And think you’re a wonderful guy.

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.


He’s the fellow to please-never mind all the rest,

For he’s with you clear to the end.

And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the man in the glass is your friend.


You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass.

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.


I believe as Christ followers, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us…and in turn when we look in the mirror….we should see Christ. Those times we don’t, we know. We know!
I have always said, you are only as accountable as you want to be….but I know me, my sins, my secrets, my faults….and so does God. You aren’t going to surprise him.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left Hebrews 10:26


Like we have talked about in the previous chapters….Christ died once and for all. This grace wasn’t cheap, the Son of God had to die for us…and our deliberate ‘trampling’ of his grace is the worst.

I don’t think we will fully understand the mind or love of God short of heaven….but I think about it as my love for my children. I so want the best for them, I never want them to faulter, but I will always love, correct and forgive.

God, I am sorry for having trampled your Grace at times. I know I am forgiven, and that is no excuse. Please let me walk in your Amazing Grace.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Once and for all - Hebrews 9

But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:26-28


I think that this “once and for all” theme continues through the chapters of Hebrews. The all is in reference to sins from the foundation of the world forward to the cross…and any and all sin from the cross into eternity. The last verse even states that when Jesus comes back….his second coming will NOT be in reference to sin….that’s already been taken care of….but he will be coming in all his glory…..not in the body of a man. (Titus 2:13)

The beginning of this chapter talks about the tabernacle and the Holy and the Most Holy Place….the priests and the processes and the blood, atoning for the sins of the priest and any sin that his people had committed in ignorance.

The one thing that really stands out to me is that the priest….in no way could forgive his own sin. He couldn’t say enough hail marys, our fathers or do penance. As a matter of fact, the last thing the priest would do before heading into the Holy of Holies is tie a rope around his leg…..just in case he had any unconfessed sin. If he did….he would die…and the rope was to pull his dead body out of the Holiest Place.

Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. Jesus didn’t die to impart special favor to some, to dole out to others….he died to do away with sin, once and for all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Covenant - Hebrews 8

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. Hebrews 8:7


"The time is coming," declares the LORD, 
"when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Jeremiah 31:31


As Jesus completed his last Passover meal with his disciples, he took the final cup and said, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you" Luke 22:10


I’ll throw this out there for you….there is a group called Millennialists…and they have this perspective that Jesus death WAS NOT the fulfillment of the NEW covenant that Jeremiah wrote about.

Read all you want to about Millennialism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennialism or http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Millennialism

I believe this perspective to be both wrong and dangerous. Here is why, if Jesus was merely the Gospel of grace to the Gentiles…..and not the fulfillment of the Jeremiah prophecy….and without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin…..who is gonna die for the Jews?

…..the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22


I believe Jesus death burial and resurrection to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Jeremiah, the Gospel of Grace and the only way and final means of living under a new covenant. I believe this not blindly, but because Jesus called his blood the “New Covenant” and he also said “ I am the way….no man comes to the Father but through me.”

This is good news.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Intercessor - Hebrews 7

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25

Jesus….greater than Moses, the prophets, and Melchizedek….saves completely, once and for all, because he intercedes for us.

I love that word intercede. Defined:
1. To plead on another's behalf.

2. To act as mediator in a dispute.


I think about when someone is read their Miranda rights when being arrested.
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?
I think about our appointed advocate in God’s system is Jesus…and he is always speaking on our behalf.

I think about the Judge (God) saying….”I find you guilty of sin….which is punishable by death.” And Jesus saying, “Your honor/dad, I’ve paid this debt.”
Beautiful

Let me also encourage someone today with this story I read this morning.

There was a church located somewhere in the south (I don’t recall) and it had been there for years. But recently a bar opened up the neighborhood and sent the very conservative church into a tailspin. With the congregation up in arms, the pastor called for a day of prayer.
He asked the congregation to pray that God would remove the bar from their neighborhood.
Well, a few weeks later, in a storm…lightening struck bar and it burned down. Within a few days, word spread of the prayer day and the bar owner (a non-Christian) found out that the church had prayed for God to somehow get rid of the bar, and he sued the church.
In court, before the judge, the bar owner stated that because of the prayers of the church, he lost his business and way of making living. When the judge asked the Pastor if the charges were true….he stated that yes they had prayed for God to get rid of the bar….but that no one really believed it would happen.
The judge sat back laughing to himself….then explained that he found it odd that a non-Christian bar owner believed in the power of prayer yet a congregation and its pastor did not.

Guys, let me encourage you guys to pray….and pray expectantly. Pray according to the will of God….and if you don’t really know what that is….keep reading his word and ask him to reveal that to you.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

It is finished - Hebrews 6

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Hebrews 6: 1-6

So Hebrew 6 has been one of those chapters that I have read countless times….trying to lay a finger on. I’ve had students and adults ask me….What does this mean? What if I fall away? What is this talking about……and having read this linearly again (meaning reading straight through as we are doing) I have a new idea on this. I am sure someone way wiser than me, has written a thesis on this, published books and articles….but I just feel that this is NOT a verse that is suppose to frighten us, or make us question our own faith as much as it is a reassurance.

I think the writer of Hebrews is specifically talking to Jews, cultural Jews maybe (those who are Jewish by birth....and not in the way they live) and we know Christians like this too….so this is a message for us as well. As we have seen in the previous chapters, he is reminding them (the Jews) of some no so great times in their forefathers past, times when they turned their back on God, only to be warned by a prophet or seen things that would make them turn back toward Him.

So here is my new take;
I think the writer of Hebrews is saying…..Jesus is it. Period.
Once you’ve decided to follow him, there is no turning back (apostasy) . There will be no greater signs, there will be no more prophets, God’s not going to send plagues, God isn’t going to part the seas, God isn’t going to reveal himself in a burning bush….ever again.
Jesus birth, life, death burial and resurrection is all you have. It is my perfect plan of redemption and once you’ve tasted that, you’ll never be subject to the law that binds you, you’ll have instant access to the “holy of holies” (like never before), Jesus is your new mediator, and you will be forever forgiven. You will not turn your back on me like you have done in the past, because once your tasted my goodness…..it’s not possible.
And even if you did……it’s not like Jesus is going to come back….live life and do this death again…..”It is finished”. Once and for all!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Milk - Hebrews 5

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12-14


The writer of Hebrews is coming down pretty hard on those who this letter was directed. You know I make the mistake of always thinking that Jews (from the time of Moses to the earliest of Christians….to today even) were all “Orthodox” from the standpoint of practicing Jews. This is clearly NOT the case. But this and the following chapter, I feel, speak to those who have heard the Gospel, some have even accepted it as true or even claim the Truth…but it ends there.

At times I have felt like one who claimed the Truth….but never lived like it mattered to me. I claimed to know God but never took the steps to get to know his heart or care about the things he cares about. I had the narcissistic view (and this is taught) that even if Jesus had to die for only MY sins….he would have. My view of God, his love, his mercy and justice began and ended with me. How tragic to claim to the name of Christ and never open his word, to never love a neighbor, to never feed the hungry or care for the widow or orphan, and to never make disciples. We are called to ALL of these things as followers of Christ.

Let’s continue to encourage each other to draw closer to God in all we do. In the end, we are all only accountable as we want to be, and we are ultimately responsible for our own spiritual growth.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Sword - Hebrews 4

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12


There has been discussion by theologians whether this verse speaks of the word of God being the bible…or Jesus. The Word of God Inspired or the Incarnate Word (The Word became flesh and dwelt among us). I think its pretty awesome the duplicity this verse could have….because just as Jesus reveals God…so the bible reveals Jesus.

I share that with you because I had never heard that. I have always believed that the word of God referenced in verse 12, speaks of God’s Inspired word. But as I develop this in my own mind….It’s really hard to separate the two.

Spurgeon in one of his sermons, sites Solomon who says concerning it, “When you go, it shall lead you. When you sleep, it shall keep you. And when you awake, it shall talk with you.”
Have you ever known what that means? Why, the Book has wrestled with me. The Book has smitten me. The Book has comforted me. The Book has smiled on me. The Book has frowned on me. The Book has clasped my hand. The Book has warmed my heart. The Book weeps with me and sings with me. It whispers to me and it preaches to me. It maps my way and holds up my goings. It was to me the Young Man’s Best Companion and it is still my Morning and Evening Chaplain. It is a living Book—all over alive—from its first chapter to its last word it is full of a strange, mystic vitality which makes it have pre-eminence over every other writing for every living child of God.

Think about a double edged sword…..It has no dull side, nothing that is less likely to cut, it is ALL EDGE. There is not a verse or word in the bible that is less likely to penetrate your heart than the very essence of the Gospel message.

George Whitefield, the great 18th-century evangelist, was hounded by a group of detractors who called themselves the “Hell-fire Club.” They derided his work and mocked him. On one occasion one of them, a man named Thorpe, was mimicking Whitefield to his cronies, delivering his sermon with brilliant accuracy, perfectly imitating his tone and facial expressions, when he himself was so pierced that he sat down and was converted on the spot. That is power.

I pray that we recognize the power of God’s word….but even if we don’t….
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Facade of Belief - Hebrews 3

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Hebrews 3:16-19


This was specifically talking about those in the Hebrew nation whom God had led out of Egyptian slavery under the care of Moses….who once in the desert, turned from God.
I find it funny that the writer of Hebrews is taking his audience back to a very painful time and a well known event and comparing it to their current situation.
The real heart of the passage is the fa├žade of belief. Those who had witnessed all the plagues, seen the Red Sea part….walk across on dry land, seen Pharoah’s army swallowed up by the sea. Been provided food from the heavens while in the desert…been given a cloud to follow in the day and pillar of fire to follow at night. How could anyone…who witnessed all these things, still not believe? How could one benefit from the miracles of God, and their life not be changed for a lifetime?

It’s not merely enough to see the pillars, the Sea parting, the plagues, and eat the manna from heaven…..just like it’s not enough to know that Jesus was the Son of God (even the demons believe) and give the appearance of faith and belief, there is an actual step of faith and belief that occurs both in the Old testament and now.