Thursday, September 6, 2018

Some Why's I'm Pondering

I have been wondering about we who claim to know & love Christ so well - if this is true of us, then why are our lives so grounded and stuck in the ways of the course of this world? 

We say there is none like Him for us, but why does so much of our social media posts purely speak about the things connected to this place. As much as we refuse to admit it or we have told or convinced ourselves it is okay - our words, life, and postings say what we really love. 

Why do we talk so much about the things in this life as if they actually have some kind of eternal value, when they are purely little trinkets that someone else will own after us?

Why do we speak about how much we value His Word and spend so little time studying it, but have no trouble at all being consumed by uninterrupted time on our phone? 

Why do affirm our lives are guided by wisdom from scripture, but never know what to do in moments of crisis, temptation, or opportunities for great faith?

Why do say we only want to hear His voice, but spend so much time listening to others perspectives on the Word?

Why do we place so much value on whether people like our posts, but rarely stop to ponder whether God is pleased with our obedience? Why does His displeasure at our lack of obedience no longer move us to repentance and change?

Why do we confess that doctrine and Biblical truth matter and they are the longing of our hearts, yet we have no issue reading blogs, books, and the blusterings of humanistic self-help writers and speakers who sprinkle in a little Christianity to make it all seem okay? Have we forgotten that Galatians and other NT letters were written to crush and combat false gospels?

What is wrong with us, that we are okay with weak doctrine and turn a blind eye to supposed Christian leaders who espouse things Jesus never did say or would say even if He were walking on the earth in our generation?  What does it say of us that we keep reading and listening to those who say these things and feel no conviction?

Why do we want to be led by a purely emotional faith, instead of having a faith when both mind and heart are fully engaged in the glory of Christ? Feelings ungrounded without the facts of truth in Scripture is just an emotional experience shrouded in Christian words.  Jesus said we are to worship in spirit and truth - both must be present for it to be worship. 

Why do we say the local church matters, but easily allow so many other things take precedent of gathering with the people of God? He died to establish a people called the church - not sports, business, hobbies, or sleep.

I have been asking myself to take a hard look at it all for myself and I think I clearly know the answer to the previous questions for all of us. Paul sets for the answer in this text...

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Here is what may be missing in our lives...
1. Salvation means we have been raised with Christ - 3:1a
This salvation means we are to live contrary to the ways of this world and we live contrary to it by...
  • 3:1b - Seeking the things above, not the things of this life - We seek the kind of things that surround Jesus as He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  • 3:2 - Set our minds on the things above, not things here  
  • 3:3 - Safety of our lives - found not in the things of this life, but that our life is hidden with Christ in God! Having stuff is not safety!
  • 3:4 - Security and Satisfaction that our faith will lead to seeing Jesus - Because of are safely hidden in Him, when He appears, we have the promise of being with Him in glory.
This is what is missing in our lives and why there are so many questions surrounding the church today.

We need to live in and immerse ourselves in C314 and maybe some things will finally be different. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Could This Be an Answer We Have Forgotten?

I noticed something in a familiar passage that needs addressing, something that has been lost in our current church culture.  It is something that has been missing in my life as well and needs to become a part of my life again.  Let's look at the text...

2 Corinthians 12:So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Pride can never produce anything that is Godly, for it will only serve to exalt ourselves over God in every kind of way. 

Paul in the text was a man who saw God keep him from becoming too big headed by giving him a thorn in the flesh, to force him to seek and rely on God and not his spiritual accomplishments. We know there is power in prayer when a righteous man prays...
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Yet, when Paul prayed here, God said "no' - that Paul would have to be content with grace, for in it he would see Christ work His power in his life. Then Paul writes these words that are so foreign today in the church...Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, 

Here is what I am really wondering about in these recent days - where is the boasting in the church about weaknesses? When you look around, there seems to be a bit too much boasting about how big a ministry is, a conference is, or a camp somewhere. Many ministers like to show how many followers they have on social media, how big their building is, or the size of the church. Where is the idea of weakness in all of that? 

Now Paul is not calling us to be weaklings or make ourselves appear that way, but rather we are to have an accurate view of who we truly are - people desperate for Christ and ones who have not arrived at perfect maturity.

     Longing For the Power of Christ to Rest on Us
1 Corinthians 12:9b Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
I have rarely met a professing Christian who would say that do not want the power of Christ to rest upon them.  I want that in my own life!

The question thought is not one of a lack of desire for His Power, but it comes down to the fleshing it out, the doing what is necessary in surrendering fully to the leadership of the Spirit.  Let's flesh this out a bit more with several principles that have been lost and need to be rediscovered...

1. Fully Trust His Provision of Grace - 12:9
12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
His provision of Grace is all we need and we should find our contentment in it. It is sufficient enough, but sadly we want more and find it not enough.

2. Weakness, not pride is the avenue for Power - 12:9
12:9 for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Look at those words and consider them - Christ's power is made perfect in weakness, not strength.  If there is someone who makes sure you know how strong they are instead of how desperate they are for Christ, then that is a false 

3. Boast in Weaknesses so that Power May Rest on Us - 12:9c 
12:9c Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
It is sad that this is a rare thing today for we can just look at the social media of so many Christians and see little evidence of "gladly boasting in weaknesses". 

4. For the Sake of Christ, Content with Weakness - 12:10
12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
This is so contrary to what we often see, but according to Paul, this is a key to experiencing the power of Christ in our lives.  I fall prey to wanting contentment in comfort, but none of that is found in the list in 12:10.  

We need a revival of contentment as well for the sake of and glory of Christ.

Could this be an answer we have forgotten in an age of social media self-exaltation?

It is time for us to embrace our weaknesses and have a fresh perspective on the pathway to greater power.

Are you and I ready for this?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Fresh Reminder of Who He Is

There are moments in our lives that bring some of the simplest reminders as to the nature of God and why I find Him so satisfying and why He is my deepest longing. I had one of these moments tonight as Canyon and I read the Scripture.  I let him pick out the story for tonight and he chose the familiar story of the son who got himself lost in Luke 15.  As we read it and talked about it, I found profound thoughts and emotions stirring in my heart in a story I have taught or referred to likely 100 times of more during my ministry. I hate when my familiarity keeps me from seeing the depth of God's stories.

Maybe you need a fresh reminder from this story we know so well.

The Setting

Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus is surrounded by two polar opposite groups of people on this day...
(1) Sinners - you know, those whose life pursued any and everything but God, except on this day they decided to step right into God's presence as they drew near to hear him.  Did you notice that? They did not want anything from Him but for His Words to fall upon their hearts.

(2) Religious Leaders - They have come to the same place Jesus was, but not because they longed for His presence or Words, but to cast judgment on Him for the crime of receiving sinners and eating with them.  

Both groups hearts were tragically lost, but one group was ready for change because pride was not standing in the way and clouding who they were in the presence of. What a mess pride is!

Jesus then tells 3 stories with the same essential message - something or someone is lost and someone is searching or waiting for what was lost to be found and brought home to restoration.

The Last Story of the Three
One day a younger son of a father came to him for the young man had been thinking about something for awhile and could not deal with his thoughts anymore. So he goes to his father and asks for his inheritance early.  As he looked at his situation, he felt cramped, restricted, and everywhere he went at home - it just did not feel like a place for him nor a place of love.  He longed for more and he knew he could not find what his aching heart longed for if he stayed, so he cast all sensibilities and respect aside and asked for what would be coming to him when his father was dead.

The son thinks he will be better off away from his father, for after all, he was old enough to make his own decisions and could take care of himself just fine.

The father was incredibly wise and knew the son would never found out about true love if He forced him to stay, so He grants His son the freedom he thinks he is desperately in need of - and cuts the cord and lets him go.

The son gets his stuff together and heads out and lands in a distant country that has everything his heart could experience.  Man, was he ever living in freedom there! For a while everything was great for he had no restrictions as he was the sole one in charge of his life.  It's funny thing though about life, this kind of freedom is never really free and the money eventually ran out and he was left with only himself. This freedom eventually leads to a famine and great emptiness where it is all gone.

Out of great desperation he finds a man who is willing to help the boy by allowing him to feed his pigs for some measly income as he tried to still make it work in that distant land. One day as he is feeding the pigs, he realizes his hunger is so great that he is actually longing to eat the food of the pigs.  This is where sin will ultimately leads us - a great hunger and longing for things in that state that can never truly satisfy.

He looked around at his surroundings and it dawned on him that there was no one in that land who had anything they could offer nor were willing to offer.  No one cared anything about him. This is life in the distant country. It was in that moment as a servant of the man that he remembered how well the servants at his Father's house had it.  They never had a longing for pigs food for His father even took care of all of there daily needs.

As he comes to his senses in that moment, he decides to go home and be a servant.  He knows though that he is not just a servant, but a son, but in his mind he embraces and feeds the thought that he is too far gone to be restored to sonship again.  He is okay with a new position with his father, so he begins the long journey home. He knows he will have a lot of explaining to do so he comes up with a speech and memorizes it all the way home.

He is convinced the father will be done with him and will not love him anymore but he also knows the father is kind, good, and generous so he is convinced the father will take him in as a servant.  

How the enemy plays with the minds of God's children who have made grave mistakes and marred God's name in sin.  The liar has convinced far too many that sonship can be lost because they think our salvation is all in our control and not in His Hands.

Then came a moment of one day when the son came into the view of the house where he could see it and see people walking around.  His heart must have raced and been gripped by nervousness of seeing the Father once again.  He practices the speech once more, yes he says, "I've got it down and it sounds good and convincing".

He did not notice it before, but it is clear now that someone is running down the road and he realizes it is HIS FATHER.  He wonders...what will Dad say? Will He shout? He tells himself as the Father is getting closer "I will just take whatever chastisement He will mete out at me, I deserve it". The Fahter is almost here, oh yeah, the speech, but all that happened was this...
  • Running
  • Compassion
  • Hugging
  • Kissing
  • Ignoring of a speech
  • Bring quickly the best robe
  • Put on ring on his finger with the family's signet
  • Put some shoes on his feet
  • Get that fattened calf we've been feeding extra 
  • Let's celebrate that My lost son is now found
I am indelibly humbled tonight in knowing God never stops loving His sons and daughters who think they can run too far & be too far lost.  Some think we cannot ever be truly restored after some of the things we have done.

By the way, did you notice that the Father was not interested in the son's clever speech nor in his decision that he could never be restored again - He is not impressed by our clever words nor is he about relegating His kids who make mistakes and end up coming home to life in the back pasture.

Maybe you are like that son, you've got some things you have squandered and you have come back to God and the church but you are holding yourself back.  You are not serving, you don't sing from the depth of your heart, you don't join in the community of the body in small group Bible Study, etc.  You are this way because you have lost sight you are truly forgiven and you are still a son or daughter.

You are the son in the story and God is YOUR Father.  Draw near and be free.

I was reminded of this tonight....

I Am a Son Of That Father

Who could want anymore?

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Christmas Gospel

The Christmas Gospel Matthew 1 & Luke 2

The Plan of GodMatthew 1:18a ; Luke 2:1-6
Matthew 1:18a 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
God moves in the affairs of nations to accomplish His purposes, for nothing can nor will stop Him from accomplishing anything He wants.  The Caesars appeared to be in control of human destiny with all of their man-made military might, but actually God was orchestrating all the events to fulfill His purposes.  God has the power to control any and everything!

Q: Have you ever felt insignificant and just a pawn in a world of over 7.44 billion people? Look what God does for two people. He is moving in Caesar and bending an entire kingdom & empire – all for a carpenter and a pregnant teenager so they could to get to Bethlehem fulfill His scripture.

We should never think He is not going to move on our behalf. 

The Purity and PerfectionMatthew 1:18b
Matthew 1:18b When his mother Mary had been betrothed[f] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

The Purity of the Relationship
When his mother Mary had been betrothed[f] to Joseph, before they came together
Joseph honored God and Mary by keeping their lives sexually pure in every way.

The Perfection of the Relationship
she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
This was a work of the Holy Spirit, therefore it would be done in utter perfection.

The Protection from Joseph of MaryMatthew 1:19-20
Matthew 1:19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Can you imagine how Joseph must’ve felt with all of this news? His plans for a home and family had been turned upside down. He must have genuinely loved Mary, but he was having second thoughts about following through with the marriage. He intended to put her away privately and not make a public spectacle out of the situation and see that shame was far from Mary.

What had begun as the happiest moment in his life quickly brought confusion, heartache, and uncertainty. In times of confusion and doubt, looking back over our lives we can see how we can continue to trust in the Lord.

As a man of integrity, Joseph sought even in the midst of his pain, to think of what was good for Mary.

The Purpose of His ComingMatthew 1:21
Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 
His name is ordained from on high, plus it was specifically and strategically chosen for Him by His Father in heaven. His name means “Jehovah is salvation”.  It is an amazing name, this name Jesus.

Though a common name in the 1st century, at His birth, Jesus became a special name, the pre-eminent name for all time.

You cannot think of Christmas without keeping the Cross in the forefront of our minds.

The Prophecy of the ProphetsMatthew 1:22-23 Luke 2:4 ; Matthew 2:1-6
His coming had been known since Genesis 3:15 and through all of the prophets.  It was a night of the fulfillment of so much prophecy.

The Presence of JesusMatthew 1:23c
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 
Immanuel means God with us. For thousands of years God had appeared only in Spirit, primarily within the veil, hovering over the Mercy Seat. In Christ, God came to dwell among people. Through Him we see the personification of God in the flesh. He was near and would never leave us nor forsake us.

The Personal Holiness of JosephMatthew 1:24-25
Matthew 1:24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
A simple profound truth is found here. Joseph was committed to the will of God for his life, and dedicated to following the Lord whatever the cost. In looking at the text, there is no sense of regret as to what is place before Him, for he embraces God’s plan and does as the Lord instructed him to do - he took Mary as his wife without delay or hesitation.

Poverty over a PalaceLuke 2:7
Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The place where Jesus was born was where the animals stayed that belonged to the travellers. It consisted of a series of stalls opening off a shared and common courtyard.

The town was crowded and there was no room for Joseph and Mary, so it was in the common courtyard that Jesus entered the world, not in a stately palace fit for heaven’s king . Swaddling clothes consisted of a square of cloth with a long bandage-like strip coming diagonally off from one corner.

The fact that there was no room was symbolic of what would mark His life. The only place where there was room for him was on a cross. He came to enter the busy and over-crowded hearts of men, and man said “no” to Him.   

The Piercing News of AngelsLuke 2:8-14
One of the most special parts of the Christmas story is the announcement to the shepherds, for they were looked down upon by the religiously conservative Jews of the 1st century. Their work kept them from keeping so much of the law – like the hand-washings and rules and regulations. Their flocks just made too many demands on them, resulting in their classification as the lowest men in the nation. 

Yet, it was to the simple men of the fields that God's message first came. 

The Pursuit & Proclamation of ShepherdsLuke 2:15-18
They did not delay for as soon as the angels left after they pronounced the news, they went with haste to find him. So all of us, just as they, should without delay seek the Savior.
Like these shepherds, we should forsake all,
and give no rest to our searching heart & eyes
until we behold and worship Him.

Having seen the child & were changed, they knew they had no choice but to let others know what they had seen and heard.

                        The First Preachers
They became the first preachers of the New Testament Gospel as they went and told everyone they saw.

Ponderings and PraiseLuke 2:19-20

         The Ponderings
2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

            “pondering them”
The word ‘pondering’ means “to weigh”. When something “weighs” on us, it never leaves our mind, it is ever at the forefront of our thoughts.  This indicates that she kept thinking on them for they we too great to forget

         The Praise
It is fitting that the Christmas narrative ends with this response, for it could not go any other way…
2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After the shepherds hear the message and meet Jesus in the manger, they go back to their flocks celebrating as they go.  Their voices are lifted up in praise to God for this wondrous gift of the Messiah. 

That is the overview of the narrative and what an amazing one that we cannot ever stop not passing on – The Christmas Gospel.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Jesus on the Church

As Jesus meets with his disciples near Caesarea-Philippi, He asks the 12 what the Jews were saying about Him in the nation – what kind of conclusions were people arriving at in their minds. The 12 share several of those views and then all of a sudden, Peter responds with this, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.

After that confession, Jesus mentions the word “Church” or “Ekklesia” for the very first time, and this whole exchange with Peter gives us the very first words on the principles of the church.  The principles Jesus speaks of here were foundational for the early church and they must be for us as well.  I would to share one of them in this post.  The full context is found in Matthew 16:13-23

The Church is a Place that is Built on and Belongs to Jesus16:18
16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 
Two Ideas here: (1) Built  (2) Belongs

When you look at this verse, it is hard to imagine how the Roman Catholic church has landed with the belief that the church is founded upon and is being continued on the lives of fallen men. 

The church must be founded upon someone more than imperfect fallen men.  Though Peter makes this great confession in the text, Peter was not done making mistakes, for after this glorious moment, Peter will make a huge mistake and with Jesus, as Jesus looks at him and will say “satan’.  I can’t think of any worse thing to be said about me, than for Jesus the Son of God to look at me and say ‘satan’.  This is a bad moment!

The church is not built on Peter, but on Christ and we should see the the church as:
(1) Built by Jesus
(2) Belonging to Jesus

         And I tell you,
Jesus perspective matters most! Jesus is sharing His perspective.

            “you are Peter, and on this rock”
·      Peter – Greek is ‘petros’ meaning little/small stone
·       RockGreek is ‘petra’ – big rock/ledge ; large stone ; projecting rock or ledge
**The Greek is saying…Peter is a stone, but Jesus is the Rock.**

            you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell      shall not prevail against it. 
This is an important piece to come to an understanding of, as there has been so much confusion in regard to these words for well over 1,000 years.  The reason it is so critical is that the right understanding of them goes to the heart of our understanding of the purpose of church. If the understanding is off, then the function of the church will be off.

Jesus is saying that He is going to build His church upon the confession that He is the Son of God. Peter is a small stone, and Jesus is going to build his church though on the confession Peter has just made. There is a rock, a large stone, a ledge that he is going to build His church upon.

What is that great rock/stone?
The strong indication from the Bible is that it is the confession of Jesus made by Peter and the rest of the Apostles, for they affirmed Peter’s words with their life.
Look at these verses with me…
Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Notice that Paul does not say the church is built on Peter, but on the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets, & all who make the same confession. Jesus is the key to it all as the chief cornerstone of the house. 

Ultimately it leads to this, the church is built upon the continued belief and confession that Jesus is the Lord God.  
How does this continue today after the apostolic period? In the church age that we live in?
The way it has been done since the earliest days of the church - the church continues to make the great confession in our affirmation the apostolic teaching.  We learn how the first church continued making the Great Confession as we see this very first description of them in Acts 2:42a “And they devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching”.  

The church is built upon the revelation given to Peter and which he declared among the Apostles. The Apostles affirmed Peter’s confession that day, & then many of them wrote down things concerning this revelation of Jesus. The Holy Spirit moved in the writers and they wrote of the beauty of this confession on animal skins and pages so that the church would understand the depth of the meaning of this confession. So...

Throughout time, the church has been built
on the great revelation of God 
which is contained in Scripture.

The Scripture becomes for us today the loud and clear voice of this confession that Jesus is the Son of God.  The church is built on that purpose and priority!

It is why in my ministry that I cannot allow any ministry to move past the teaching of Scripture as the priority in all we do.  The proclamation of the Gospel in the scripture becomes the way we make the same great confession of Christ that Peter made. The best way to do this is teach the scripture.  He is the Word and so We exalt Him best by teaching the Word.

            “I will build my church”
Jesus is speaking of Himself as the owner and the builder of the church and He sees His apostles as a part of that body of people that He is building. In our generation, as we make this great confession, we are built into this foundation.

Jesus Christ is the foundation stone of the church. It’s not Peter. It’s not a movable stone, it’s an immovable one!

He builds His church on all those who make the great confession, with all those to whom the revelation is given and when they hear it and they believe it. So, the church at large and locally is not built on Peter, but on the confession of Jesus as Lord.
When we turn to John's vision in Revelation 21:14 and we see the picture of the heavenly Jerusalem, what is the foundation of the city?  The names of the apostles and the elders.  Jesus is saying here that the apostles will have a unique role in founding the church. 
Paul tells us the church isn’t built on Peter, but on Jesus Christ:

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

            “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. 
When a church strategically builds its existence upon the aim of this confession, even the gates of hell will not prevail. Throughout history as satan, dictators, false religions, nations have tried to abolish the church, their efforts have only serve to keep the church alive and for her to even grow in places of enormous persecution.

The big bad wolf can huff and puff but he will never topple the church.  

The church is the gathering of Christ-followers
who make it their mission and practice
to never stop confessing that Jesus is Lord.

If you have left this practice for something else, it is time to return to the greatest ministry that we can have - making the Great Confession in prayer, greeting, singing, preaching, fellowshipping.

After all, the gates of hell cannot shut up the confession that will last for eternity.  The true church will not ever be silent in its proclamation that Jesus is the Son of God.